From the director of “Shaolin Soccer”! “Hustle” is a mad martial arts comedy from Stephen Chow, who directed, wrote, produced and stars as a hapless petty thief in pre-revolutionary China who aspires to join the fearsome Axe Gang in its feud with the surprisingly resourceful residents of a run-down housing project called Pig Sty Alley. According to “Hustle’s” website, Chow is the most popular comic filmmaker in Asia, having made over 50 films, and is credited with inventing the “mo lei tau” (“nonsense”) genre of Hong Kong comedy.
Many of “Hustle’s” featured actors were apparently beloved action stars in the 70s, many of whom haven’t appeared onscreen in years. This was lost on me in that I’m only a casual fan of Hong Kong film, but it’d be a treat for aficionados. Chow lingers on their iconic faces in Leone-esque close-ups.
Chow’s definitely got a nice touch with mise-en-scene: bodies fly, speed, fight, dance, and shift shape, with a kineticism matched by Chow’s camera moves. More than any other live-action feature that I’ve seen, it captures the manic spirit of an early Bugs Bunny cartoon (to which it’s often been compared).
There’s no doubt that this movie is a great time. I had a big smile on my face pretty much throughout. That said, it didn’t transport me to the state of nirvana-like bliss that some of the critics seem to be experiencing. Basically, if you find Roadrunner cartoons to be the “acme” of hilarity, then this will have you in paroxysms of laughter. If slapstick isn’t your thing, you can give it a miss.
- Apr 29, 2005