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Kung Fu Hustle (Steven Chow, 2004) is a western-influenced Chinese martial arts film that has a distinctive tone and a stylised narrative. It plays out like an old gunslinger movie but its frenetic choreography, gamified narrative, and absurd plot make it a film that stands out for more than just it’s influences.
It has a simple narrative, it’s engrossing and entertaining; for fans of genre mash ups, here are some films similar to Kung Fu Hustle.
Football is a sport that we know well in the UK; we understand its conventions, rules, and nature. Steven Chow, however, flips all of that on its head with his collision of eastern martial arts and western sports.
Shaolin Soccer is as ridiculous and weird as Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, but it’s also just as entertaining, fun, and pleasurable to watch.
It’s unapologetic and it navigates it’s absurdities with an infectious tone, subverting the traditional football match and turning it into something quite alien but utterly mesmerising.
An overt allusion to Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, this American-infused Korean Western wears its influences for all to see. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a journey into a very Eastern world but one that is filled with recognisable Western tropes.
This is a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s just as well-made and produced, but has its own particular brand of humour that marks this out as a new take on old traditions.
The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is good cinema if, more often than not, completely weird.
Jackie Chan and Jet Li star alongside one another in Rob Minkoff’s The Forbidden Kingdom. The narrative follows a young boy who loves martial arts films and eastern folklore and it uses the traditional tale of the Monkey King to good effect.
Our young hero finds himself transported from America to ancient China where he must join an ancient warrior sect and help them rescue their imprisoned king. It’s a traditional fish out of water tale but it does allow audiences to glimpse the differences between Asian and Western cultures.
Set in China in the tumultuous early 1900s, Peking Opera Blues is a martial arts thriller that is more grounded in where it’s from. Rather than borrowing, reusing, and creating a hyper reality for its plot to exist within, the film is a much more traditional martial arts epic.
Following numerous characters, their lives and their actions, Peking Opera Blues mixes slapstick comedy with drama to create its unique tone.
Just as stylised as Chow’s work but more dated, Peking Opera Blues is worth revisiting.
The films mentioned above show that cinema can be subversive, funny, and above all, entertaining, when it’s unapologetic about its narrative, structure, and form.
Chaotic action sequences and a tightly controlled narrative ensure that The Raid is a thrilling – if slightly claustrophobic – movie.
A modern take on 1970s blacksploitation movies, Black Dynamite is equally funny and clever.
Marshal arts and basketball collide in another Eastern hybrid movie.
Personally, I love watching film that originates in other cultures and it ensures that I don’t just get a Hollywoodised perspective of film and the world in general.
I would suggest watching The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Its narrative is immediately familiar to Western audiences but it cleverly subverts genre expectations and creates its own unique story in the process.
Are there any films that I missed out?
Let me know with a comment below.