We actually started with a quick “short” from Nigel – he showed us a web version of a martial arts demo tape that had been made several years ago from footage out of a low-budget martial arts film he had played in. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the name of the film, but if I remember to ask him, I’ll put it up here. Not that you’ll ever even get an opportunity to see it! Nigel told us that once we got a look at his acting we’d realize why he went the science route, but honestly, there wasn’t anything to indicate he’s a poor actor. He didn’t have to deliver any lines, so you never know, but the martial arts looked pretty legit to me. And if you’ve ever seen Nigel with his shirt on and figured you’d better not mess with him, imagine seeing him with his shirt off. I try to help Nigel whenever I can, so that when there’s a bar fight, he’s on MY team.
Phong then showed us an interesting Norwegian short called United We Stand, directed by Hans Petter Moland. It’s the feel-good short of the year, featuring an aging group of Norwegian campaigners who are traveling on their annual hiking trip. In speaking to a familiar gas station owner near their trailhead, they mention about 5 former companions who have run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. Dropping like flies at this age. But still hiking.
While out on their hike, they hear the distress calls of a lone young woman who has become caught in a bog and is slowly sinking. They make a human chain to get her out, and she thanks them (perhaps a bit underenthusiastically) and takes off. At which point the men realize that they’ve become stuck in the bog. Somebody will come along, right?
Umm, wrong. They slowly sink into the bog. Uplifting!
But, the feature presentation made up for it. Malaika dug down into her martial arts drawer again and came up with Kung Fu Hustle, a comical 2004 film by Stephen Chow. Chow not only directs, but also stars as Sing, a young man with a typical story: As a child he was hit up by a stranger on the street, saying that Sing would be a great Kung Fu master, and offering a cheap Kung Fu pamphlet for kind of a lot of money. Sing buys it (figuratively and literally), and tries to learn the secrets of the Buddhist Palm. Well versed in the pamphlet, he finds a young mute girl being abused by a gang of bullies, and is destroyed when he confronts them. This, of course, convinces him, in the words of Dark Helmet, that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”
In his hopes to join up with the decidedly unpleasant Axe Gang, the de facto ruling gang of the…well…of the world, as far as we’re concerned, Sing and his buddy “Not Just Skin And” Bone head over to the poverty-ridden Pig Sty Alley, which was clearly named before the advent of marketing executives.
Their intent is to impersonate Axe Gang members and kick some Kung Fu butt to get some attention. Problem is, they’re not good. Still, they end up attracting the interest of the Axe Gang anyway, and a brawl ensues. The thing is, there are three legitimate clandestine Kung Fu masters living in Pig Sty Alley (because what Kung Fu master wouldn’t want to live in poverty under the yoke of a domineering landlady and her lecherous husband?) and they kick some axe.
The gang beats a retreat, and is going to kill Sing and Bone, but Sing’s incredible lockpicking skills allows them to get free and convinces the leader of the Axe Gang they might be useful.
Meanwhile, the haberdashing leader of the Axe Gang hires some musicians to take care of the Pig Sty Masters for him. Yes, musicians. Harpists, specifically.
But, you know, Kung Fu harpists, the kind who can pluck the harpstrings and summon up aethereal swords and ninjas and stuff. And pretty good aethereal swords and ninjas, because they manage to kill all three masters, only to find that there are two, even greater masters in Pig Sty Alley – the landlord and landlady. She, specifically, is capable of the shrewish “Lion’s Roar”, which proves too much for the harpists.
Meanwhile, Sing, still under the belief that the dark side is the answer, verbally mistreats a mute ice cream vendor. A mute, hot, ice cream vendor. Of course, everybody but Sing recognizes that she’s the girl he failed to rescue so many years ago.
She’s very forgiving though. And horribly underutilized in the movie. Needed more screen time.
Anyway, with the defeat of the harpists, the leader of the Axe Gang asks Sing to break the infamous Kung Fu master “The Beast” out of prison. So I guess they control everything…except the prison. Sing easily breaks him out, and he turns out to be a bit less imposing than advertised.
But, he can catch bullets in his fingers, so he’s probably pretty good. He’s not exactly for sale, he points out, he just wants to start whacking some bozos. Specifically, the greatest Kung Fu masters in the world type of bozos. The leader is going to unleash them on the Slumlords, but as they negotiate this the Slumlords come to them. An epic battle ends in a stalemate, with the Axe Gang leader dead and Sing badly injured.
The Slumlords bring Sing, who was marginally helpful in their battle for some reason (dude, weren’t you trying to get your degree in evil?) back to Pig Sty Alley in the hopes of curing him. Turns out he heals really fast – in fact, so fast that he must be a great Kung Fu master. His midichlorian count is off the chart. And somehow, turning to the side of good unleashes his terrible power. So when The Beast tracks them down to Pig Sty Alley, it’s Sing and his Buddhist Palm that defeats him.
Then, there’s a coda where Sing opens a candy store and makes up with the hot mute chick. She doesn’t seem to mind. At least, she’s not complaining.