Kung Fu Hustle US Theatrical Release: April 8, 2005 (Sony Pictures Classics) US DVD Release: August 9, 2005 Running Time: 1:38:50 (28 chapter stops) Rating: R (For sequences of strong stylized action and violence) Video: 2.40:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: Cantonese DD5.1, English DD5.1, French DD2.0 (Extra Features: Cantonese DD2.0, English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: English) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Background Animation Packaging: Standard keepcase with cardboard slipcover; one insert has cover images of other titles on one side and an essay by film critic Richard Corliss on the other; another insert has an offer to buy one more genre DVD and get one free. MSRP: $28.95 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5 Wow. I just had the strangest dream! No, wait -- that was no dream; that was Kung Fu Hustle! To come up with this bizarre flick, director/ star Stephen Chow feasted on decades of classic chop socky and washed it all down with a big bottle of Gilliam Juice. The result is sometimes disjointed, sometimes hilarious, and always completely wacky. Kung Fu Hustle is both a satire of and a tribute to the good old-fashioned martial arts films churned out by companies like Golden Harvest and the Shaw Brothers. It's full of traditional devices like a poor town threatened by gangs, a wandering antihero, and, of course, mighty masters (and mistresses) of kung fu who defy the laws of physics with the greatest of ease -- and every bit of it is taken to a ridiculous extreme. The story, which takes place in the years immediately preceding the Second World War, centers around Pig Sty Alley, a downtrodden slum that resembles nothing so much as a beached version of the Waterworld set. Pig Sty Alley is generally left alone by the gangs who terrorize the rest of Hong Kong, since there isn't anything there worth a shakedown. However, a couple of bumbling wanna-be crooks are about to bring a heap of trouble to the neighborhood. Sing (Stephen Chow) and his unnamed chubby buddy (Lam Tze "Fat"(!) Chung) want nothing more than to be bad-ass gangsters. Unfortunately for them, they show no signs of rising above the level of two-bit street hustlers. Sing, as the Idea Man, comes up with preposterous schemes to increase their street cred, while his pudgy pal tags along, contentedly oblivious (or perhaps not) to the absurdity of their activities. When these two goofballs hit Pig Sty Alley and try to pass themselves off as members of the notoriously brutal Axe Gang, they quickly run afoul of both the slum-dwellers and the real gangsters. What ensues is a veritable orgy of ludicrous kung fu action. A series of fighting masters reveal themselves one by one and demonstrate what a clever director can do with a competent special effects team. Their powers range from old standbys like super-strength and super-speed to clever (and deadly) uses of music and voice. Naturally, an animal fighting style makes an appearance, but it's not based on an animal one would normally think of when it comes to kung fu. The action generally takes on a cartoonish tone, with wildly exaggerated movement and kooky sound effects. There's even an homage to the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. However, the violence earns Kung Fu Hustle an 'R' rating. Broken bones and buckets of blood fill the frame. There isn't much gore compared to brutal war films like Tae Guk Gi or Black Hawk Down, but there's just enough to make things uncomfortable for viewers who don't go for that sort of thing. Long-time fans of classic martial arts films will recognize a number of genre icons, some of whom came out of retirement to bring their skills (with the help of FX) to the screen for the first time in years. Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, and Liang Hsiao provide some of the best comedy and action in the film, which focuses more and more on their characters as the story progresses. Feng Xiao Gang, Zhang Yi Bai, and Fung Hak On make appearances as well. This casting coup was a great way for Chow to connect the film with the classics that inspired it. So how does it all work? That depends a lot on the viewer. Stephen Chow, while a huge star in Asia, is something of an acquired taste for Western audiences. This has a lot to do with the fact that comedy often doesn't travel well between cultures. Kung Fu Hustle is, in fact, extremely wacky any way one looks at it. Much of the humor is very random and surreal, which won't appeal to everyone. Also, martial arts films have always had their fans and their detractors, and this one isn't about to change anyone's mind. That said, what Kung Fu Hustle does, it mostly does quite well. If it sounds like it's up your alley, then it probably is. If not, then you'll likely just find it silly. THE WAY I SEE IT: 2/5 Some aspects of the transfer are very nice, while others are quite disappointing. On the plus side, colors are very rich and lifelike, with decent blacks and a nice variety of palettes used for the different sets. The picture also shows good detail. On the minus side, there is pervasive edge enhancement (with a side order of purple fringing) throughout the film. In fact, this image displays a ridiculous amount of EE -- it's visible in pretty much every shot. In addition, despite the relatively high video bitrate (for a non-Superbit Sony title, anyway -- it generally ranges around 4.5-6.5 Mbps, but bumps up to the 7-8 Mbps range on occasion), a lot of digital noise is visible. However, the actual EE haloes are not very thick, and the artifacts are not terribly chunky -- viewers with smaller screens may not notice these problems very much. Unfortunately, they will stick out clearly on front projection systems and large RPTVs. Further detracting from the image quality is an annoying flicker that pops up in a few scenes. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5 The Cantonese DD5.1 soundtrack is very solid. Dialogue and effects are clear, the surround music mix is nicely put together, and lots of directional effects help to bring the action to life. The LFE channel is used fairly sparingly, and won't blow anyone away, but this track gets the job done. The quality of the English DD5.1 audio is very similar to the Cantonese, and the dub acting is respectable. THE SWAG: 3/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Commentary With Stephen Chow, Lam Tze "Fat" Chung, Tin Kai Man and Chan Kwok Kwun The group commentary is pretty lightweight. There's some interesting discussion of the production, but there's also a fair amount of yawn-inducing silliness and idle chitchat. It's in Cantonese, with optional English subtitles. (English speakers can watch the film with the English soundtrack while reading the commentary subtitles.) Behind The Scenes Of Kung Fu Hustle (41:55) A decent making-of that includes interviews with the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Some of it isn't terribly exciting, but overall, it's worth a look. In Cantonese with optional English subtitles. Deleted Scenes Two scenes are included, each running about two minutes. They're actually alternate, extended versions of existing scenes, and are good for a chuckle. In non-anamorphic widescreen and Cantonese with optional English subtitles. Ric Meyers Interview With Stephen Chow (27:55) This is a Charlie Rose-type interview (in English), conducted by the famous expert on martial arts cinema. Meyers can be a bit patronizing sometimes (in a fanboy way), but there's enough of interest here to recommend it. Outtakes & Bloopers (4:46) Standard humorous stuff. Of course, as is par for the course with martial arts film outtakes, some of the gaffes are pretty spectacular. TV Spots Fifteen(!) TV ads from the clever and hilarious US marketing campaign are included. Most run 0:32; some run 0:17. "It'll chop your socks off!" International Poster Exploration Gallery 16 color images from various posters for the film can be browsed using the remote buttons. Previews: Eleven trailers are included. The trailers for Layer Cake, 2046, and Lords Of Dogtown play automatically when the disc is first inserted. They may be skipped. Kung Fu Hustle (1:43) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Layer Cake (1:57) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) 2046 (1:53) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) November (2:06) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) 3-Iron (1:59) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) House Of Flying Daggers (1:57) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Lords Of Dogtown (2:28) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) XXX: State Of The Union (2:32) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Stripes (2:15) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (1:23) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Mirrormask (1:55) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5 The Way I See It: 2/5 The Way I Hear It: 4/5 The Swag: 3/5 Kung Fu Hustle is one of those genre films to which it's tough to assign a star rating. For fans of martial arts films, and especially for fans of Stephen Chow, it's without question a must-see. For other audiences, however, the wire-fu and CGI action combined with the thoroughly wacky and surreal comedy will be a turn-off. This is definitely a case of "if you think you'll like it, then you probably will." The A/V quality is a mixed bag, with very solid audio and some unfortunate issues with the picture. The copious special features won't blow anyone away, but fans of the film will still get some enjoyment out of them. So in the end, it's a fun romp that's definitely recommended for fans, but viewers with less interest in this sort of thing will probably want to give it a pass.