Snake Whistling – clearly not a ‘thing’.


Directed by: Stephen Chow

Written by: Stephen Chow, Kan-Cheung Tsang, Xin Huo

Featuring: Stephen Chow, Wah Yuen, Qiu Yuen, Siu-Lung Leung, Xiaogang Feng, Zhihua Dong, Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan, Tze-Chung Lam

The Axe Gang rule unchallenged in Canton during the 1940s and Sing desperately wants to be a member, to kill and rob people. Despite his obvious short-comings, he’s not a murderer or kung-fu expert or even a criminal he somehow ends up in a slum area that even the Axe Gang do not bother with, a slum area run by two landlords who are the in fact the greatest kung-fu masters that have ever lived, it is just no one knows. The Axe Gang arrive in the slum looking for Sing and suddenly a series of every escalating and confusing battles and skirmishes change Canton forever, but who is the hero, the real master and greatest champion of all?

Stephen Chow approaches the very real discipline of kung-fu in the way I view most kung-fu movies, it is all a bit silly, a bit preposterous and really should not be taken too seriously. Therefore, it is obvious that this type of kung-fu movie would appeal to me more than the kill everyone, dead serious, ‘look at this, ‘look at that’ kung-fu movies that have been made over the decades.

Imagination is no limitation to Chow and here we see deaths, cartoon violence and wirework all thrown together to make an action-packed laugh-filled movie.

The story is packed with dance-sequences, jaw-dropping martial arts fight sequences that are never ever taken seriously. It is a cartoon made flesh.

Chow is without doubt the anti-hero for most of the running time and it must be said he subverts your expectations as characters come to the forefront, seem to be the focus and then drift away, die or change their viewpoint.

The style is slapstick and daft in the main but with the storyline, the action, it makes sense and with Chow and his ‘teams’ acting and timing it works perfectly and in lesser hands it could have been a dull disaster. The line is fine and the skill in getting this correct cannot be underestimated.

In particular one sequence had me actually ‘laughing-out-loud’ and chucking about it long after it had passed, well known by viewers and fans of the film the knife attack and snakes in the box scene is very funny and skilfully put together. A masterclass in a simple slapstick, comedy-of-errors, set-up, ‘Who threw a handle?’ indeed.

Not afraid to use computer effects for the snakes, daggers and axe attacks Chow mixes the traditional kung-fu balletic choreography with more modern methods and once again he melded them almost seamlessly.

No film is perfect there are moments that jar and moments that do not quite work but in such a frenetic and fun-filled action comedy the target is going to missed from time to time. The story, such as there is, slightly confuses you but in reality we are here to sit in watch the fun, laugh and have a good time.

Stephen Chow delivers this fully and even if you do not like silly comedy or kung-fu too much it would still pay you to watch Kung-Fu Hustle on a rainy boring day when you need cheering up. It is fun, colourful and entertaining – you cannot really ask for much more.

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