Kung Fu Hustle is no stranger to the digital disc format, having been released on widescreen and fullscreen DVDs as well as a recent Blu-Ray release. So why has Sony decided to release a new “Axe-Kickin’ Edition” of the film? The film wasn’t extremely successful stateside, though it did enjoy a wealth of critical appraise in North America, I wouldn’t think it’d be enough to warrant as second release.
The explanation of “Think Kill Bill meets Looney Tunes” from Entertainment Weekly’s review of the film aptly describes this title. While the martial arts are more akin to what we saw in The Matrix rather than Kill Bill, the Looney Tunes portion is a perfect fit for this film. The film is brilliant and seamlessly meshes together two of my favorite forms of entertainment: comedy and action. From the films introduction of Sing (played by writer/director Stephen Chow) as a small-time crook that desires to join the Axe Gang to the very end where he ultimately becomes the bad ass of the small town, Kung Fu Hustle is a film that should be seen by any person that calls themselves a fan of comedy or action. I hesitate to liken it to the Rush Hour series as they are infinitely inferior to Kung Fu Hustle, but if you enjoy martial arts and humor, there’s really no wrong way to go with Kung Fu Hustle.
There’s not much to say about this film that hasn’t been said in the three years since the film’s original release; it really needs to be seen to fully understand its brilliance and no amount of description of it can do the film justice. I may be overselling the film, but it’s just pure enjoyment when watching Kung Fu Hustle and it comes Highly Recommended.
Arriving in a single disc amaray case with a cardboard slipcover (with an “All NEW Version!” sticker adorning it) and no chapter listing insert, Kung Fu Hustle – Axe Kickin’ Edition doesn’t make a strong visual appearance on the shelf, although the menu art contained on the disc is colorful and easy to navigate.
I haven’t seen the original cut of this film since it originally came out, so my memory on what was even in the film as opposed to this “Hong Kong version” on this new Axe-Kickin’ Edition release is hazy, but I can tell you both DVDs list the same run-time on the back of the case. On top of that, this edition has a different collection of special features, which will be discussed later. Whatever the added scenes are, the deleted scenes from the previous release are not included, so it’s very possible that they were inserted into the film and that’s why I’m not remembering any new footage. Regardless, the extra few minutes of footage are not going to dictate whether you double dip on this DVD release.
The video and audio for this release is superb. Watching the film in the original Chinese 5.1 soundtrack is a must, as the English dub ruins the comedic delivery of some of the lines, as it just doesn’t quite match up. I’d equate it to watching a comedy with an out of sync audio track—sure it’s still funny, but it’s slightly annoying to watch the lines not fully match the lip movements. Still, both the 5.1 Chinese and English tracks are crystal clear and feature a robust surround sound track. The video is a beautiful transfer as well, completely clean and devoid of any flaws, aside from some softness when it comes to the Looney Tunes-esque animations.
First up on the special features list is a series of Comedy Central interviews that were done in promotion of the film. The audio on these is absolutely crap as Chow’s answers sound like they’re coming out of a tin can. Still, the “Bloopers” segment is great fun to watch and shows just how much of a strong sense of humor Chow has about it all. The other Comedy Central featurette is an interview which is entertaining, but extremely short.
Three featurettes are included on this set that isn’t available on the previous disc. “Organized Chaos” shows off the fight choreography of the movie in detail, “Bringing Down the House” is a production design featurette that gives us a tour of the buildings, sets and locations for the film and “Dressed to Kill” covers the costumes of the film. The total time for these special features is near an hour and all of them feature interviews with the cast in crew, making them a lot more interesting than the Comedy Central fluff pieces. On top of that, the special features are all in Chinese and dubbed in English, making me think these are from the Hong Kong release of the DVD. Neat bonuses to be sure, although the commentary track from the original release is missing, the original release and the “Axe-Kickin’ Edition” make great companion pieces.
Also on this set is the same interview with Stephen Chow that is performed by Ric Meyers that was on the last release. For those that didn’t watch this on the previous release, do yourself a favor and do so—it’s in-depth and gives you a great view of Chow’s life and the progress and development of Kung Fu Hustle.
Whether or not you buy this new release solely depends on your enjoyment of the film. If you’ve never seen the film before and are looking to buy it on DVD, you choose between the different special features: deleted scenes, blooper reel and commentary or new footage from the Hong Kong release combined with in-depth special features are also likely from that release. It’s a brilliant film on either edition and the special features are the only thing that sets the releases apart.
Fans of the Film: Recommended
New Audiences: Highly Recommended
Kung Fu Hustle: Axe-Kickin’ Edition arrives on DVD on July 31st.