Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
Tuesday, April 25, time 3.00 PM


By date


By title


Kung Fu Hustle

The film that officially brought Stephen Chow to wide international attention, Kung Fu Hustle is the end of one era of Stephen Chow’s career and the start of another. Prior to Kung Fu Hustle, Chow was known primarily as a comedy superstar. He may have direct­ed, written and starred in Shaolin Soccer (2001), but with Kung Fu Hustle, Chow also took on producing duties, and even stepped back a bit as the lead actor, ceding screen­time and the spotlight to his many co-stars. Also, Kung Fu Hustle would be the last film Chow would appear in as the lead actor, opting only for a supporting role in CJ7 (2008) before moving fulltime behind the camera for the rest of his (still ongoing) film career.
In Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow plays Sing, a two-bit thief in 1930s Shanghai with su­preme lock picking skills but few other talents. Sing gets involved in the world of martial arts when he accidentally launches a feud between Shanghai’s number one triad, the Axe Gang, and the residents of Pigsty Alley, a rundown housing complex that houses a num­ber of hidden martial arts masters. To combat the Pigsty Alley residents, especially the supremely skilled Landlady (Yuen Qiu) and Landlord (Yuen Wah), the Axe Gang enlists the Beast (Bruce Leung), a martial arts master whose evil is greater than they suspect.
Sing is actually rather unimportant in the film’s early going, mostly acting as a catalyst until he emerges later with kung fu abilities of his own. The reveal gives Stephen Chow a chance to show off his chiseled physique as well as own martial arts training, which exists partly due to his admiration of Bruce Lee. Besides being a blockbuster action com­edy, Kung Fu Hustle is the onscreen realization of many of Stephen Chow’s inspirations. The film draws from Bruce Lee, several Shaw Brothers movies, Japanese anime, Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons, and even Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Many of the references are obvious visual gags, but others sneak into dialogue or underlying themes.
Kung Fu Hustle is also intertextual, referencing Stephen Chow’s own films and pet themes on occasion. From an opening gag, which references Shaolin Soccer, to the film’s romance between Sing and a mute candy seller (Eva Huang), Chow’s life and person­ality are ever-present. One only has to look at Chow’s filmography to know how much romantic regret means to him; in numerous Chow films, he (or his onscreen stand-in) hurts a loved one only to regret it deeply, which in turn fuels his change from a bad man into a good man – or an amoral loser into a righteous kung fu master. These are rather common themes in cinema, but Chow portrays them with utmost sincerity, making them remarkably affecting.
A sequel to Kung Fu Hustle was once promised, but it’s now 13 years later and Stephen Chow is off conquering mainland China with his written-and-directed work. Films like Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013) and The Mermaid (2016) regularly achieve blockbuster status, proving that audiences will still see his films even if he doesn’t appear in them. But even if you don’t see Stephen Chow in his films, he’s present and accounted for in every aspect, most especially the cartoon-like sensibilities, droll sense of humor, and unswerving preoccupation with romantic regret. Whatever Chow did with Kung Fu Hustle that made it so good, he’s still doing it today, making a sequel largely unnecessary. If it did happen, though, it would break box office records.
Ross Chen (www.lovehkfilm.com)
Film director: 
Chow Stephen
Running time: 




  • Kung Fu Hustle 00
  • Kung Fu Hustle 01
  • Kung Fu Hustle 02
  • Kung Fu Hustle 03
  • Kung Fu Hustle 04