Friday, June 17, 2005
Kung Fu classic
Its real world universe is the universe of the Gong Fu classics, epitomized by Jin Yong's Condor Heroes and Return of the Condor Heroes, where initiates start out to discover the ways of "chi" ("the force") and are led into the arcane world of ever more powerful Gong Fu masters. The difference with Kung Fu Hustle is that the viewer is dumped into the middle of this universe with no initiation, and so it all looks like a joke, until you realize it is not. Any reviewer who can leave the movie still thinking it is a spoof gets zero stars.
Also worth noting: the grotesquely venal Axe Gang is an obvious reference to the Communists, and if the Jin Yong tradition is taken as a guide, the death-crazy Beast is Mao. The conquering hero is quite explicitly Bhuddist (the light side of the force, lit by the light of moral comprehension). Altogether a fabulous story, with fabulous Kung Fu masters. Only what is with the falling down pants? Please don't tell me that Chinese pop culture is importing the absolute worst of black prison gang culture.