Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Writer / director / producer / composer / star Stephen Chow delivered easily the most exhilarating, breathlessly silly pure kung fu movie of the Zeroes in this 2005 U.S. import (originally released in 2004). It out-beautied Hero and easily outpaced the second Kill Bill in close-contact adrenaline.
Sing (Chow) is a gangster wannabe in 1940s Shanghai who inadvertently sparks a war between the Axe Gang and the shantytown community of Pig Sty Alley. While it seems the Axe Gang’s otherworldly ace in the hole — kung fu master the Beast — is unstoppable, Pig Sty’s landlord and landlady have their own skills, as does Sing.
Marvel at Hustle for both its crackerjack comedy and violent-ballet battles. It’s peppered with physical humor (Sing and the landlady become human Road Runners in a Looney Tunes-style chase), sight gags (The Beast’s magnificently ironic appearance) and self-spoofing (Chow referencing The Shining only because he has a long hallway and the sheer inclination to do so).
But Hustle also fused mysticism, music, mood and movement better than any live-action kung fu film since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A face-off between Pig Sty Alley’s unexpected heroes and supernaturally aided assassins delivered a roundhouse to Hero’s pretentious predictability. Plus, the epic Matrix Revolutions-style conclusion lightly poked at that film’s philosophy while delivering a heavens-shaking showdown that was every bit as exciting.
The mentality of genre-based grab-bagging doesn’t always work. But Chow used such wacky tools to forge so much mind-blowing fun that the last thing Kung Fu Hustle felt like was a phony con job.