DVDs: Reference Disc
Badly dubbed dialogue and exaggerated acting make martial-arts movies unintentionally funny (to Westerners, at least). But in Kung Fu Hustle (Sony; Movie ••••, Picture/Sound ••••½, Extras •••• ), director Stephen Chow sets out to grab laughs by mining the genre's clichés. Most of the humor comes from sight gags and from action sequences that go beyond the hyperkinetic into realms of cartoon chaos. Get ready for Crouching Tiger, Wile E. Coyote.
The immaculate picture, derived from a high-definition transfer, has a wealth of detail in the film's key setting, Pig Sty Alley. Even the fluffy texture of flour handled by the local baker/Kung Fu master is visible. Shadows look deep and nuanced in the nighttime fight scenes. Bold red and green signs in the film's urban backgrounds are balanced by the subtle hues of vintage 1940s costumes. And the sound is as dynamic as the visuals. The Axe Gang's approach is signaled by thunderous bass, while the 5.1-channel mix leaps and twists to keep pace with the pyrotechnics onscreen. Extras include a director's commentary, a featurette, and deleted scenes.