Kung Fu Hustle Stephen Chow

This amazing feat in balancing comedy with kung fu is one of the year's best films and thankfully the North American DVD release hasn't been completely botched like Stephen Chow's previous masterpiece, Shaolin Soccer. Sing (Chow) and his sidekick (Chi Chung Lam) stroll into Pig Sty Alley in hopes that posing as the feared Axe Gang will allow them to live like kings in the dilapidated community. But the town isn't as haggard as it looks and the two impostors have to deal with the Landlady, played remarkably well by Qiu Yuen. When the real Axe Gang makes their way into the village it's up to some unlikely kung fu masters to save the day, but even a trio of deadly warriors are no match for a pair of harpists in a phenomenal scene of special effects, which are heightened greatly by the creative context in which they are implemented. Chow's ability to combine action with absurdity is a remarkable feat and every aspect of Kung Fu Hustle is enjoyable, making the film alone worth the DVD purchase, though thankfully the extras are decent. The best bonus is a Chinese "made for TV" special on the making of the film that makes you wish that all the extras were from the film's homeland, unlike the American-conducted interview with a nerdish Ric Meyers that forces Chow to speak uncomfortably in English. There's also a humorous blooper reel that shows some of the string work used in the stunts, as well as a commentary track with Chow, Lam and Axe Gang members Kwok Kuen Chan and Kai Man Tin that is actually quite easy to follow even though it's subtitled. Even items that are normally boring, such as a poster gallery and television spots, are worth checking out, making this DVD a nice apology for the missing of the boat on Shaolin Soccer, which will now likely be re-released thanks to the success of this exceptional film. (Columbia/Sony)