Kung Fu Hustle
|Kung Fu Hustle|
Mainland China release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Chow|
|Written by||Stephen Chow
Danny Chan Kwok Kwan
|Music by||Raymond Wong|
|Editing by||Angie Lam|
|Studio||Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia Limited
Beijing Film Studio
China Film Group
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures (International)
Sony Pictures Classics (USA)
|Release date(s)||14 September 2004TIFF)
December 23, 2004
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Box office||HK$61.27 million
Kung Fu Hustle is a 2004 Hong Kong action comedy film directed, co-written and produced by, and starring, Stephen Chow. The other film producers were Chui Po-chu and Jeffrey Lau, while the screenplay was co-written with Huo Xin, Chan Man-keung, and Tsang Kan-cheung. Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Danny Chan, and Bruce Leung co-starred in prominent roles.
After the commercial success of Star Overseas' Shaolin Soccer, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia along with Star Overseas began to develop Kung Fu Hustle in 2002. Although the film features the return of a number of retired actors famous for 1970s Hong Kong action cinema, it contrasts with other martial arts films released at around the same time that have made the biggest impact in the West, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. The cartoon style of the film, accompanied by traditional Chinese music, is often cited as its most striking feature.
The film was released on 23 December 2004 in China and on 25 January 2005 in the United States. It received extremely positive reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 90% fresh rating and Metacritic 78 out of 100. The film was also a commercial success, grossing US$17 million in North America and US$84 million in other countries. Kung Fu Hustle was the highest-grossing film in the history of Hong Kong until it was surpassed by You Are the Apple of My Eye on 31 December 2011. The film was the all-time tenth highest-grossing foreign language film in the United States and also the highest-grossing foreign language film in the country in 2005. Kung Fu Hustle won numerous awards, including 6 Hong Kong Film Awards and 5 Golden Horse Awards.
Turmoil grips Shanghai in the 1930s. Various gangs vie for power, the most feared of which is the Axe Gang, led by Brother Sum. One day, two troublemakers, Sing and Bone, come to the Pig Sty alley, impersonating members of the Axe Gang to gain respect. Their plan fails, and Sing's antics attract the real gang to the scene. In the massive brawl that ensues, more than fifty gangsters are defeated by three tenants who are martial arts masters.
After the fight, Sing and Bone are apprehended by Brother Sum for publicly humiliating the Axe Gang. They request Sum to let him and Bone join the gang. The next day, the duo return to Pig Sty attempting to murder the Landlady, but their efforts fail. Sing is badly injured and hides in a traffic control pulpit, where his multiple injuries spontaneously heal.
Sing describes his childhood: he buys a Buddhist Palm manual from a beggar and trained himself to be a martial artist. But when he tried to defend a mute girl from bullies, he was beaten up and humiliated. Sing then steals ice cream from a street vendor. Meanwhile, Sum hires the Harpists Killers to assassinate the three martial artists at Pig Sty. They succeed, but are defeated by the Landlady and Landlord. Sing mugs the ice cream vendor, only to realise she is the mute girl from his childhood. Sing is picked up by the Axe Gang and Sum orders him to break into a mental asylum to free the Beast. The Beast confronts the Landlady and Landlord at the casino and Sing rushes in to help them but they had to flee. Sum angrily blames The Beast for letting them escape, and The Beast casually kills Sum in response. At Pig Sty Alley, Sing undergoes a metamorphosis. He quickly recovers from his wounds. He easily defeats the Axe Gang before confronting the Beast. A battle ensues, and the Beast uses his Toad Technique to send Sing rocketing into the sky. As he falls back to earth, Sing delivers the Buddhist Palm to defeat the Beast.
Some time later, Sing and Bone open a lollipop store. When the mute ice cream vendor walks by, Sing goes out to meet her, and they turn back into kids and quickly reconcile. The same beggar tries to sell a young boy several martial arts books. The child stares, intrigued.
- Stephen Chow as Sing, a loser in life who aspires to join the Axe Gang.
- Yuen Qiu as the Landlady of Pig Sty Alley.
- Yuen Wah as the Landlord of Pig Sty Alley. He is also a master of taijiquan.
- Danny Chan Kwok Kwan as Brother Sum, leader of the Axe Gang.
- Bruce Leung as the Beast, a kung fu master, rumoured to be the most dangerous person alive, though his skill is disguised by his unkempt appearance.
- Xing Yu as the Coolie, a kung fu specialist specialising in Twelve Kicks of the Tam School
- Chiu Chi-ling as Fairy, the Tailor of Pig Sty Alley.He specialises in the art of Hung Ga Iron Fist Kung fu, and he fights with iron rings on his arms.
- Dong Zhihua as Donut, a baker in Pig Sty Alley. He specialises in the Eight Trigram Staff.
- Lam Chi-chung as Bone, Sing's sidekick
- Eva Huang as Fong, Sing's mute love interest.
- Tin Kai-Man as Brother Sum's adviser
- Gar Hong-hay and Fung Hak-on as the Harpists, two killers hired by the Axe Gang. Their instrument is the guqin, or "Chinese harp".
- Lam Suet and Liang Hsiao as high-ranking members of the Axe Gang
- Yuen Cheung-yan as the Beggar, the man who sold Sing the Buddhist Palm manual
- Feng Xiaogang as the leader of the Crocodile Gang. He is killed by the Axe Gang at the start of the film.
Kung Fu Hustle is a co-production of the Beijing Film Studio and Hong Kong's Star Overseas. After the success of his 2001 film, Shaolin Soccer, Chow was approached in 2002 by Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, offering to collaborate with him on a project. Chow accepted the offer, and the project eventually became Kung Fu Hustle. Kung Fu Hustle was produced with a budget of US$20 million.
Major inspirations of the film came from the martial arts films Chow watched as a child and his childhood ambition to become a martial artist. A senior Hollywood executive said Chow was "forced to grind through four successive scripts" and "found it very laborious".
Chow's first priority was to design the main location of the film, the Pig Sty Alley. He grew up in an environment similar to the Alley, and the plot included many aspects of his daily life. A 1973 Shaw Brothers Studio film, The House of 72 Tenants, was another inspiration for the Pig Sty Alley. Designing the Alley began in January 2003 and took four months to complete. Many of the props and furniture in the apartments were antiques from all over China.
Filming took place in Shanghai from June 2003 to November 2003. Two-thirds of the time was spent shooting the fighting sequences. The fighting scenes of Kung Fu Hustle were initially choreographed by Sammo Hung. Production suffered a setback when Hung quit after two months due to illness, tough outdoor conditions, interest in another project and arguments with the production crew. To replace Hung, Chow immediately contacted Yuen Woo-ping, an action choreographer with experience ranging from Hong Kong action cinema of the 1960s to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix in the early 21st century. Yuen swiftly accepted the offer, and certain scenes that had been in production under Hung were cancelled. Yuen drew on seemingly outdated wuxiafighting styles like the Deadly Melody and Buddhist Palm.
Special effects were mainly created with a combination of computer-generated imagery and wire work. Legendary martial arts mentioned in wuxia novels were depicted and exaggerated through CGI, but actual people, rather than digital effects, were used to film the final fight between Chow's character and the hundreds of axe-wielding gangsters. A Hong Kong computer graphics company, Centro Digital Pictures Limited, was solely responsible for the CGI. The company had previously worked on films like Shaolin Soccer and Kill Bill. Its team performed extensive tests on various scenes that could be depicted by CGI before filming started. A group of six people followed the production crew throughout the shooting. Treatment of the preliminary shots began immediately afterwards. The CGI crew removed wire effects and applied special effects in high resolution. After a final calibration of colour, data of the processed scenes was sent to the US for the production of the final version.
Kung Fu Hustle pays tribute to many famous veterans of Hong Kong action cinema of the 1970s. Yuen Wah, a former student of the China Drama Academy Peking Opera School, plays the Landlord of the Pig Sty Alley. He appeared in hundreds of Hong Kong films from the 1970s and was a stunt double of Bruce Lee. Yuen Wah considered the film to be the peak of his career. He remarked that despite the comedic nature of the film, the shooting process was a serious matter due to the tight schedule. In spite of the film's success, Yuen Wah worried that nowadays fewer people practice martial arts.
The part of the Landlady was offered to Yuen Qiu, another student of Yu Jim-yuen, sifu of the China Drama Academy. Yuen Qiu had appeared in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun at the age of 18. Having retired from the film industry after her marriage in the 1980s, Kung Fu Hustle was her comeback. She admitted that she never expected to star in the film. When her colleague was on stage during a tryout for Kung Fu Hustle, Yuen Qiu stood nearby and smoked a cigarette with a sarcastic expression on her face. That pose earned her the part. To fulfill Stephen Chow's image of a "fat lady", Yuen Qiu deliberately gained weight before production by eating midnight snacks on a daily basis.
Bruce Leung, who played the Beast, was Stephen Chow's childhood martial arts hero. Leung Siu Lung was a famous action film director and actor in the 1970s and 1980s, known as the "Third Dragon" after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. After becoming unpopular in the Taiwanese film market in the late 1980s following a visit to China, he switched to a career in business. Kung Fu Hustle was his return to the film industry after a fifteen-year hiatus. He regarded Chow as a flexible director with high standards, and was particularly impressed by the first scene involving the Beast, which had to be reshot 28 times.
Besides famous martial artists, Kung Fu Hustle features legends of Chinese cinema. Two famous Chinese directors appear in the film: Zhang Yibai, who plays Inspector Chan at the beginning of the film, and Feng Xiaogang, who plays the boss of the Crocodile Gang.
Eva Huang made her debut in the film industry and played Fong, a mute ice-cream vendor. Having been asked whether she wanted to have any dialogue in the film, she decided not to speak so as to stand out only with her body gestures. She stated that it was an honour to work with experienced actors and directors and a great learning opportunity for future roles.
The majority of the film's original score was composed by Raymond Wong and performed by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. The score imitates traditional Chinese music in 1940s swordplay films. One of Wong's works, Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained, provides a stark contrast between the villainous Axe Gang and the peaceful neighbourhood of the Pig Sty Alley, depicted by a Chinese folk song, Fisherman's Song of the East China Sea. Along with Wong's compositions and various traditional Chinese songs, classical compositions are featured in the score, including excerpts from Zigeunerweisen by Pablo de Sarasate and Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian. A song is sung in the background by Eva Huang at the end of the film. The song, Zhiyao Weini Huo Yitian (只要為你活一天; Only Want to Live One Day for You) was written by Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌) in the 1970s. It tells of a girl's memories of a loved one, and her desire to live for him again. Kung Fu Hustle was nominated for the Best Original Film Score in the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards.
Asian and American versions of the soundtrack were released. The Asian version of the soundtrack was released on 17 December 2004 by Sony Music Entertainment and has 33 tracks. The American version of the soundtrack was released on 29 March 2005 by Varèse Sarabande and has 19 tracks.
Parodies and references 
Kung Fu Hustle makes references to a wide range of films, animated cartoons, wuxia novels and other sources. The appearances of Sing and Bone resemble George Milton and Lennie Small from the 1992 film Of Mice and Men. The housing arrangement of the Pig Sty Alley is similar to that of a 1973 Hong Kong film, The House of 72 Tenants. When Sing arrives at Pig Sty Alley, he shows fancy footwork with a football, then says, "You're still playing football?". This is a reference to Chow's previous film, Shaolin Soccer, as is the scene where a clerk beats Sing up on a bus. The clerk also appeared in Shaolin Soccer as the leader of an opposing team who used hidden weapons to beat up the Shaolin soccer team. When Sing challenges a boy in the Pig Sty Alley, Sing calls him "The Karate Kid", a reference to the 1984 film of the same name. During the altercation between Sing and the hairdresser, the hairdresser states, "Even if you kill me, there will be thousands more of me!". This is a parody of a saying by Lu Hao-tung, a Chinese revolutionary in the late Qing Dynasty. The scene where Sing is chased by the Landlady as he flees from the Alley is a homage to Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, characters in the Looney Tunes cartoons, down to the pursuer's (the Landlady's) ill fate. In the scene where Sing robs the ice cream vendor, a poster for the 1935 film Top Hat is in the background. As Sing arrives at the door to the Beast's cell in the mental asylum, he hallucinates a large wave of blood rushing from the cell door, similar to a scene in The Shining.
A major element of the plot is based on the wuxia film series Palm of Ru Lai (如來神掌), released in 1964. Sing studied the same fighting style "Buddhist Palm style" from a young age and realised it at the end of the film. In reality, it does not leave palm-shaped craters and holes on impact. Instead, the user delivers powerful punches using his palm. The Beast's name in Chinese, Huoyun Xieshen (火雲邪神; Evil Deity of the Fiery Cloud), and the fight with the Landlady and her husband are also references to the film, in which a mortally wounded master strikes the patterns of his art's final techniques into a bell so that his apprentice can learn from it. Kung Fu Hustle also contains direct references to characters from Louis Cha's wuxia novels. For example, the landlord and landlady refer to themselves as Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü, the names of characters in Cha's The Return of the Condor Heroes, when they met the Beast.
References to gangster films are also present. The boss of the Axe Gang, Brother Sum (琛哥) is named after Hon Sam / Hon Sum (韓琛), the triad boss played by Eric Tsang in Infernal Affairs. The Harpists imitate The Blues Brothers, wearing similar hats and sunglasses at all times. When they are flattered by the Axe Gang advisor, one of them answers "Strictly speaking we're just musicians", similar to a line by Elwood Blues.
When Donut dies, he says "in great power lies great responsibility", a reference to Spider-Man, said by Uncle Ben before his death. Afterwards, with his dying breath, Donut gets up, grabs the Landlord by the shirt and utters in English, "What are you prepared to do?", a nod to Sean Connery's character Jim Malone in Brian De Palma's 1987 film The Untouchables.
The dialogue that the Beast says while negotiating with the Axe Gang for killing the Landlady and Landlord – "...then young friend, I will make an offer you cannot refuse", is a reference of the dialogue from the movie 'The Godfather'. Also, the Landlady's comment to Brother Sum – "We brought a gift you cannot refuse" is an obvious parody of the same, to which Sum replies – "Ha! With the Beast on our side, we shall see for whom the bell tolls", a reference to the 1943 film.
The final fight between Sing (who has been reborn into "the one" paying homage to Bruce Lee by wearing his costume in Enter the Dragon and using his fighting style) and the hundreds of gangsters imitates the fight between Neo and hundreds of Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded. The scene in which the Beast prompts an axe member to punch him harder is reminiscent of a similar scene in Raging Bull, with Robert De Niro's character prompting Joe Pesci's character.
The last scene, in which the beggar tries to sell martial arts manuals, refers directly to the greatest skills in Louis Cha's Condor Trilogy (Nine Yang Manual, "Yiyang Finger", and "Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms"), "Thousand Hand Divine Fist", and The Smiling, Proud Wanderer ("Nine Swords of Dugu"). The scene where the landlady confronts Brother Sum in the back of his car is a homage to Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon, where he cracks his knuckles and gives a quick upper nod to the mafia boss; telling him to back off.
Kung Fu Hustle had its world premiere at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. It was then released in China, Hong Kong and other countries in Asia with significant overseas Chinese populations in December 2004. The film was first shown in the US at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005, and then opened in a general release on 22 April 2005 after being shown in Los Angeles and New York for two weeks. The film was released to most of Europe in June 2005. Kung Fu Hustle is rated IIB (not suitable for children and young persons) in Hong Kong, R in the United States for sequences of strong stylised action and violence, and is rated to be viewed by people with a minimum age ranging from 13 to 18 in other countries.
The North American DVD release was on 8 August 2005. A Blu-ray version of the DVD was released on 12 December 2006 by Sony Pictures. A UMD version of the film was released for the PlayStation Portable. Sony made Kung Fu Hustle available for online streaming in standard definition as part of its service Crackle.
The Portuguese title of the film is Kungfusão, which sounds like kungfu and Confusão (confusion). In the same way, the Italian and Spanish titles were Kung-fusion and Kung-fusión, puns of "confusion". In France, the film is known as Crazy Kung Fu, and the Hungarian title is A Pofonok Földje, meaning The Land of Punches.
The film was generally well received by critics, earning the score of 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes based on a total of 166 reviews. Hong Kong director and film critic Gabriel Wong praised the film for its black comedy, special effects and nostalgia, citing the return of many retired kung fu actors from the 1970s. Film critic Roger Ebert described the film as being "like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny". The comment was printed on the promotion posters for Kung Fu Hustle in the US. Other critics described it as a comedic version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Positive reviews generally gave credit to the elements of mo lei tau comedy present in the film. A number of reviewers viewed it as a computer-enhanced Looney Tunes punch-up. In a 2010 GQ interview, actor Bill Murray called Kung Fu Hustle "the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy."
Much of the criticism for the film was directed at its lack of character development and a coherent plot. Las Vegas Weekly, for instance, criticised the film for the lack of a central protagonist and character depth. Criticisms were also directed at the film's cartoonish and childish humour. Richard Roeper gave it a negative review, saying he had "never been a fan of that over the top slapstick stuff".
Box office 
Kung Fu Hustle opened in Hong Kong on 23 December 2004, and earned HK$4,990,000 on its opening day. It stayed at the top of the box office for the rest of 2004 and for much of early 2005, eventually grossing HK$61.27 million. Its box office tally made it the highest-grossing film in Hong Kong history, until it was beaten by You Are the Apple of My Eye on 31 December 2011 with HK$61.3 million.
Kung Fu Hustle began a limited two-week theatrical run in New York City and Los Angeles on 8 April 2005 before being widely released across North America on 22 April. In its first week of limited release in seven cinemas, it grossed US$269,225 (US$38,461 per screen). When it was expanded to a wide release in 2,503 cinemas, the largest number of cinemas ever for a foreign language film, it made a modest US$6,749,572 (US$2,696 per screen), eventually grossing a total of US$17,108,591 in 129 days. In total, Kung Fu Hustle had a worldwide gross of US$101,104,669. While not a blockbuster, Kung Fu Hustle managed to become the highest-grossing foreign language film in North America in 2005, and went on to gain a cult following on DVD.
Awards and Nominations 
Kung Fu Hustle received a large number of award nominations in the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards in 2005.
- Won: Best Picture
- Won: Best Supporting Actor (Yuen Wah)
- Won: Best Sound Effects
- Won: Best Visual Effects
- Won: Best Action Choreography
- Won: Best Film Editing
- Nominated: Best Actor (Stephen Chow)
- Nominated: Best Actress (Yuen Qiu)
- Nominated: Best Art Direction
- Nominated: Best Cinematography
- Nominated: Best Costume Design and Make Up
- Nominated: Best Director (Stephen Chow)
- Nominated: Best New Performer(Huang Shengyi)
- Nominated: Best Original Film Score
- Nominated: Best Screenplay
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Danny Chan)
- Won: Best Picture
- Won: Best Director (Stephen Chow)
- Won: Best Supporting Actress (Yuen Qiu)
- Won: Best Visual Effects
- Won: Best make-up and costume design.
- Nominated: Best Film Editing
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Yuen Wah)
- Nominated: Best Action Choreography
- Nominated: Best Sound Effects
- Nominated: Best Art Direction
- Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film,
- Nominated: Best Film not in the English language.
It was named Outstanding Film in the 2006 Hundred Flowers Awards.
In 2005, Chow asserted that there would be a sequel to Kung Fu Hustle, although he had not settled on a female lead. "There will be a lot of new characters in the movie. We'll need a lot of new actors. It's possible that we'll look for people abroad besides casting locals." Production of Kung Fu Hustle 2 was delayed while Chow filmed the science fiction adventure film CJ7. As a result, Kung Fu Hustle 2 is slated for a 2014 release.
In January 2013 during an interview Chow admitted that plans for making "Kung Fu Hustle 2" have been put on hold. "I was indeed in the midst of making the movie, but it is currently put on hold in view of other incoming projects."
Flash Game 
In 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment released an online flash game. In the game, the player controls Stephen Chow's character, Sing, to beat up the Axe Gang. On each level, there are more members of the Axe Gang to beat.
Online & PS3 
In 2009, a massively multiplayer online 2D side-scrolling fighter game based on the film was announced. The news also said it was undergoing closed beta testing in Taiwan, and was due for release in 2010. It will be free, aiming to generate profit through in-game micropayments. Stages of the game will resemble scenes in the film, such as the alley and highway. Players in the game will not take the form of Stephen Chow's character, Sing, and it is not known whether any major characters will return; however, the Axe Gang is present in early testing releases.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Kung Fu Hustle|
- Official website
- Kung Fu Hustle at the Internet Movie Database
- Kung Fu Hustle 2 at the Internet Movie Database
- Kung Fu Hustle at Rotten Tomatoes
- Kung Fu Hustle at LoveHKFilm.com
- Kung Fu Hustle at AllRovi
- Kung Fu Hustle at Metacritic
- The Six Degrees of Stephen Chow and Kung Fu Hustle