Kung Fu Hustle (2004) Martial Arts Comedy Feels Like a Musical

Kung Fu Hustle (2004) Martial Arts Comedy Feels Like a Musical Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 19.18.56
Directed, co-written by and starring Stephen Chow, as a sort of follow up to his 2001 film Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle follows a similar premise as the earlier film. In this marital arts comedy, which does feel like a musical in many parts, the idea is that kung fu masters can come in any guise and be found in the most unusual places.

This award winning film begins by showing the rise of the notorious Axe Gang and then moves to a suburb of Shanghai where the tiny township of Pig Sty is ruled with an iron fist by the landlord and his wife. Two con men who dream of joining the Axe Gang try to fool the locals into believing that they are gangsters from the notorious group.

After trying to force a barber into giving them free haircut as well as insisting that he pay them for protection, the hair cutter gets the landlady involved. She takes off a sandal and proceeds to beat Sing (Chow) pretty soundly. He warns her that he will call his brother Axe Gang members and throws a firecracker over a house.

The cracker hits a real Axe Gang member and Sing, after telling the leader that he is one of them, lets the gang take over. The landlady of Pig Sty departs rapidly and the head Axe man approaches the barber who says he is not afraid. As the gang head moves to kill the other man, something invisible hits him and he is knocked into a barrel. With his back broken he calls for backup.

The entire Axe Gang invade the town and three kung fu masters from the small township defeat the whole gang, the noodle cook, a shower curtain salesman and a handyman all save Pig Sty. The landlady tells them off and says the gang will not rest until they destroy the town and tells the three local heroes that they should leave. While she tells off the entire suburb, Sing and his friend Donut try to throw knives at her and they all end up sticking into Sing.

The two leave Pig Sty and Sing “heals” himself while the Axe Gang set out to destroy the small township. It is up to Sing, the landlord and the landlady to save the day and defeat the evil Axe Gang.

Kung Fu Hustle is easily one of the funniest martial arts films ever made. The action is on par with most Warner Bros Looney Tunes cartoons and is just as entertaining. From Sing ending up with three knives in his body, being bitten on the lips by two poisonous snakes and being chased for miles by the irate landlady to two supernatural assassins who use musical instruments to defeat their enemies, this film delights.

This movie is a homage to all martial arts film from China with many nods and winks to Bruce Lee, who helped to revolutionize the art of screen fighting in the cinema. The plot and story are wide ranging with many surprises along the way.

The film is on Netflix at the moment, but for those who despise subtitles, there are DVD copies of the film that have been dubbed. Kung Fu Hustle is a real 5 out of 5 stars for comedy and a record number of belly laughs, watch this one and prepare to be entertained. A cracking good film that does feel almost like a comedic martial arts musical.

Try it, you’ll like it.

By the Power of Quorn

I kind of feel like He-Man at the moment; not super strong with a magic sword or a giant tiger dressed in armour to ride around, but I do feel pretty damn powerful. Like the cartoon’s opening, I can envisage myself raising a packet of some Quorn product over my head and yelling, “By the power of Quorn!”

I cannot envisage any of the rest of the opening montage applying here, but what the heck, the first part is good enough. Because I feel like I owe a lot to my present state of health to this “fake” meat product that has become a part of my everyday diet. It’s allowed me to eat healthily and to avoid fats; fats that would have been counteracting all that surgery and would have been like pouring salt on a wound.

I am lighter than I’ve been in years. My weight at the moment wringing wet is under 165 pounds or 11 stone 7 pounds. My average weight for the last ten years hovered around the 14 stone mark (or 196 pounds) considering that I’m not tall (I’m roughly 5’9 ½”) I was a hefty fellow. My waist has dropped from 34 inches (plus) down to around 32. I am not exercising too much at the moment; to be honest I’m slightly afraid to push myself too much until my second visit with my surgeon.

But everyday my energy level is rising and I can now scamper to the Metro and back and rather than trundle up the stairs, I can trot. My back has improved quite a lot, although I still have to take the pain medication that I am no doubt rapidly becoming immune to. In a nutshell though, my physical health is great!

I feel good! *cue James Brown music here*

Besides I can always tell when I am feeling better or getting more energy. The signs are apparently the same whether it’s recovering from a standard illness, like the flu for example, or recovering from ass-kicking surgery and a heart attack. The minute I start feeling more like the “old” me, I get fidgety. I start to whittle (another word for fidgety but more on the verbal and mental side of things) and think of a million physical things that I should be doing.

For example; I will fret and whittle if I have not gone for at least one longish walk throughout the day. My eager and energetic mind will start to worry and an inner dialogue will start:

“How do you expect to keep getting better if you don’t exercise every day? You should have walked through the cold and the snow down to the Metro and back…at least twice. The weather’s not going to hurt you, ya big baby.”

“Well, I did go shopping to the big Tesco and I walked all over it very quickly and I trotted up and down the stairs at least twice.”

“Not good enough! If you want to keep improving you need to stretch yourself. You know that! Now quit looking longingly at your bed and run up and down the stairs a few times…NOW!

When I’m feeling better after an illness I have this drill sergeant appear in my head who harangues me until I start doing more than I am willing to. I do listen to him, a little, because I know that deep down I am doing better. The knowledge that I could walk through the snow and cold down to the Metro and back, twice makes me feel more powerful and fitter than I felt the last week. I can even envisage myself jogging once spring decides to show up.

But until that time, I’ll listen to my drill sergeant alter-ego or subconscious or whatever you want to call it, with a grain of salt. Because I feel like He-Man and “by the power of Quorn” I’ll continue to eat and lose weight healthily and I’ll dance down the road of further recovery.

Now if you will all excuse me, it’s time for my nap.

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The Old Man’s Hands

The old man sat in a row of empty chairs in the waiting area of the bus station. He was the only live occupant in an area filled with dust bunnies, cobwebs, and deserted candy wrappers. Every time the entrance door opened with a sigh, pushed by the swirling ubiquitous wind, the bunnies and wrappers would shuffle away from the door and then slide back when the wind died. The cobwebs moved, in a kind of sympathetic sway to and fro; shakily as if they were so fragile that to move too much would make them lose their anchor and sail away.

The wind did not appear to bother the old man. He sat looking at his hands. Hands that despite being wrinkled and liver spotted were huge. They were cracked with blunt sausage fingers, the nails were cut to the quick but still showing a touch of year’s worn grime under the nails themselves that no amount of scraping or brushing was going to remove. Sometimes he would make a fist. Both hands curled up like a bare-knuckle boxer. He would turn them this way and that, still scrutinizing them as though he had never seen them before.

The wind pushed the door open again and Sam behind the ticket counter looked up for what must have been the hundredth time. He seemed incapable of not looking. He would raise his eyes and cock his head quizzically and if he’d been a dog, one ear would have cocked forward. As his eyes drifted back down to the crossword puzzle in front of him, they detoured to the big old man who seemed so fascinated by his own hands.

Footsteps came up behind Sam and he spoke without looking. “Hey Leanne.”

“Hey Sam.” Leanne headed to the only other chair behind the ticket counter. “Slow day, huh?”

Sam nodded slowly, still concentrating on his crossword, which was almost finished. “Oh yeah; if it wasn’t for Mohammed Ali’s cousin over there, this place would be dead.”

“Who?” Leanne glanced over at the old man in the waiting area.

“The old man sitting over there with those big old boxer’s hands.” Sam nodded in the direction of the bus station’s only occupant in the waiting area.

“Has he come up to the counter,” Leanne asked.

“Nope,” Sam said, still more interested in finishing his crossword than talking about the old man. “I don’t even know when he came in. I just looked up and he was there. Made me jump, I don’t mind telling you.” Sam put down his pencil, “The next bus ain’t due for another two hours and he’s been here at least that long already.”

“Well, you know Sam, you could have tried asking him what he wanted.” Leanne’s tone was dry. “He might have grandkids coming in to visit or a son or daughter coming home.” She shook her head in disgust, “But I suppose that would have taken you away from your precious crossword.”

Reaching in his back pocket, Sam pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose, loudly, and then spent a couple of seconds sniffing and wiping the end of his nose. “Well, if it was that damned important to him he would have said something wouldn’t he? Besides, he ain’t hurting anything and he’s been real quiet. He hasn’t moved from that chair. Just keeps looking at his hands like he’s never seen ’em before.”

Without folding it, Sam shoved the handkerchief back in his pocket. Glancing back down to his crossword, he scowled. “Hey Leanne, what’s a three-letter word for old sailor?”

“Tar.”

Leanne and Sam both jumped as the old man said it again, “Tar.” They looked at each other, struggling not to laugh nervously; Leanne checking the crotch of her jeans because she could have sworn she’d wet herself just now. Sam nodded and said, “Thanks Old Timer.”

The old man grunted and went back to inspecting his hands.

Leanne leaned close to Sam and whispered, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary, he just scared the shit out of me!” Sam leaned back and putting his hands behind his head to crack his knuckles, nodded. “Me too.”

“Didn’t he sound kind of familiar? You know, like someone you know, or is that just me.”

“He just sounded old and gravelly. Like he has rocks in his throat or chest; in a few more years he’ll start sounding all wheezy and whispery. I mean look at him, he must be 90 if he’s a day.”

The wind blew again this time it was a real howler. Wailing and gusting aggressively the wind smacked the entrance door open. Sand, litter and the odd scorpion were blown into the waiting room. The dust bunnies and empty candy wrappers swirled up and away from the old man’s row and for a second looked like a miniature dust devil. The cobwebs strained against their anchored ends and held on. Clenching his fists, the old man did not move one bit. Even his clothes seemed to be unaware of the wind and dust that was swirling around.

“Leanne!” Sam pointed to the still open door. “Go close that damned thing before it breaks and put the latch on. There are two of us here now we can close up and watch for the bus. I don’t want to be stepping on scorpions and tarantulas in here!”

Leanne bolted from her seat and with her eyes squinted against the grit in the air she slammed the door shut and turned the bolt. “Is that good enough for you, your highness?”

Sam didn’t even bother looking up. “Great. Wonderful. Put yourself up for a commendation. I’ve got a whole drawer full of gold stars. Why don’t you pin one on your ass.” Leanne, shot him the finger and Sam chuckled. “Yes dear, I know I’m number one. Thank you for remembering.”

“George C Scott.” Leanne jumped and whirled around. The old man was looking at her with eyes that looked kind and tired. “That’s who folks tell me I sound like.” Leanne smiled. “That’s it! That’s who you sound like. My boy was watching some cartoon where he did the voice. You sound just like him.” He redirected his eyes to his hands and seemed to forget she was there. Leanne watched him for a moment thinking he might say something else, but he remained mute.

Spinning around she headed back toward the counter. Just as she reached the counter, Sam looked up and past her.

The old man rose slowly from his chair. As he got to his feet he reached behind him with both hands as though he were going to massage his back. His hands reappeared with two of the biggest guns Sam had ever seen. They made Dirty Harry‘s .44 Magnum look like a pea shooter.

Sam’s eyes widened, “Leanne, Look…” Sam’s face erupted in a geyser of blood and bone and flesh, his body toppled backward on the chair and only stopped when it met the floor. His pencil was still gripped in his right hand and it marked the floor a bit as he twitched once or twice.

Leanne felt someone punch her in the back, hard, as though she’d been hit by a baseball bat; she automatically looked down and saw a section of her spine blow out of her stomach. It was the last thing she saw as she lost consciousness and fell to join Sam’s lifeless body on the floor. The big old man walked slowly up to the two dead bus station employees.

He stood looking at them and put the guns back in his waistband behind his back. He leaned over Sam and cleared his throat. Sounding just like George C. Scott he said, “Shooter’s hands sonny, not boxers, shooters.” He turned on his heel and strode out the entrance leaving the door to swing in the wind.

Michael E. Smith copyright 2013-01-08