KUNG FU is a movie unlike any I have seen before or since. It combines the lunatic physical comedy of a Buster Keaton film and a Bugs Bunny cartoon with the wi-fu artistry of the best Hong Kong action flicks and a post-modern irony born of two parts Monty Python and one part Tarantino. It is one of the few films where I laughed throughout and wept with tears of joy, not just the first time I watched it but on repeated viewings. The audacity of the movie - the commitment to see through the insane vision to its illogical end - is dazzling.
The genius of the film is to take the classic kung fu plot and take it further and faster than anyone dreamed possible. The action is bigger, louder, and often cartoon-like. And every scene has an allusion to some other pop-culture classic - from TOP HAT to THE BLUES BROTHERS to THE SHINING. Best of all, the stock characters become outrageous comic caricatures of almost grotesque proportions. We are given a rogue's gallery of characters that Charles Dickens would have been proud of. Who will forget the mad Landlady shouting on the verandah, curlers in her hair and cigarette permanently hanging from her lips? Who will forget the old kung fu master, The Beast, flip-flop hanging from his toe, straggly hair scraped across his scalp. Who will forget the little girl who has lost her lollipop?
For all these memories and so much more, KUNG FU remains the best film I have seen, and perhaps, the greatest movie ever made.
KUNG FU HUSTLE showed at Toronto 2004 and Sundance 2005. It has been on release in Europe and hits the UK this week.