Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer was a unique genre potpourri in which sports films, The Matrix, and science fiction animés all irreverently coalesced into a frantically funny tale of victorious underdogs. The filmmaker’s signature cartoon craziness – an idiosyncratic mixture of Buster Keaton’s physical comedy and Dragonball Z’s lunatic action – likewise permeates Kung Fu Hustle, a similarly ridiculous medley of gangster pictures, musicals, and martial arts films. A period piece about a 1940s-era Shanghai village forced to defend itself from the oppressive mobster outfit, The Axe Gang, Chow’s latest is not quite as infectiously hilarious as its predecessor. Yet this tour de force compensates for a shortage of belly laughs with an astute portrait of mid-20th century social inequality, as well as an exuberant momentum, its kinetic slapstick amplifying with each subsequent fight scene until, with its building-smashing finale, it reaches a crescendo of absurd insanity that would make even Jackie Chan gasp.
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