As I was trying to explain to my mother-in-law: “If you saw Airplane, and you had never seen a disaster movie, and in fact you had no idea that there was such a thing as a disaster movie, it would seem a very strange film.” And so Kung Fu Hustle seemed a very strange, though very fine, film to me, because the cliches and situations and styles it pastiches are lost to all but watchers of Eastern Cinema. The result is a fascinating bumpiness of tone: the film begins with an over-the-top, but straight, scene of violence and threat and occasionally lurches back into that register (the moments with the musician assassins, for instance). For all I know the seriousness in these sections might be sarcastic, the creepiness hysterical if you’re in the know. But as it was I got a lot of pleasure from how unexpected it all was.
And as I also tried to explain, it’s a very violent film. “Oh, I wouldn’t like that” said mother-in-law. “But it’s good violence” I said. What I meant was that it’s cartoon violence, real cartoon violence with heads being knocked round by a single blow, bashed into the ground, people running in mid air, bashing walls and leaving fist or palm shaped holes – everything that you’d expect from a Tex Avery short performed on human flesh and bone by the miracle of CGI. Sounds terribly irresponsible, doesn’t it?