Don't you love it when you see a movie and you just get excited about it? It may not be your favorite, or your new favorite, or even what some would call a film (like in some fantastic distinction between fiction and literature) but it's got you wrapped around its fingers. And so you have to talk about it and think about it and talk about it s'more.
This last week I saw Stephen Chow's two recent global works and was really, really excited. Giddy, more like it. The last time I felt similarly giddy was the first time I saw a Jackie Chan movie after watching the Eraser or some dumb-but-not-in-an-entertaining-way Schwartzenneger movie. Rumble in the Bronx let me identify with the hero even as I elevated him, much the way I like to be drawn into the heroic epics. (The primal identity-hero for me has always been Luke Skywalker.) And I stinking enjoyed the movie. It was a thrill and I left my worries at home.
Shaolin Soccer is a keeper. It's an interesting piece of comedic action in line with the Hong Kong / Jet Li over-dramatic use of flying men and women doing the impossible as only movies can bring to life. But the film - unlike those of Chow's hero, Bruce Lee - is not about revenge, although that could have been the primary subject matter. Instead, the motivation of the plot is popularizing Shaolin and how the people can fully integrate Shaolin as a part of the every-day, the finishing touch on the mundane to draw it out of its banality.
In Kung Fu Hustle, the heroes are, in reverse, drawn out from Kung Fu and into the mundane, into the ordinary so that there are five masters living in the same slum tenements. Each of the heroes is eventually called out of their self-imposed retirements by nobler causes of self-sacrifice for the good of the people, the down-cast, etc. And yeah, Ebert was pretty darned close by calling it a mix of Quentin Tarantino / Looney Tunes / Jackie Chan / Buster Keaton with a bit of the Matrix thrown in for good measure. Though probably not so BK, Ebert is a big fan of ol' Stone Face so it's probably just an extra plug. Oh yeah, a little classic Hollywood musicals in the first few minutes and maybe too many filmic references to count (at least one being Shaolin and one being Spider-Man, followed by a quote, in English, from the Untouchables - which I never would have guessed had I not read it beforehand).
And good fun.
P.S. The Tarantino reference is quite apt. This last movie is not for the squeamish. It has a lot of cartoony violence in it and a lot of kung fu stylized violence in it, but a lot of the highly stylized style that Q.T. is famous for. Be forewarned.