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Stephen Chow returns to the Big Screen with “Kung Fu Hustle”
Stephen Summer, The Epoch Times

There is a story Stephen Chow remembers as he was making “Kung Fu Hustle.” In a scene that he had in mind from the beginning, the lead actor – who also produced, directed and wrote the screenplay for the film – wanted to take his shirt off to assume one of Bruce Lee’s most famous postures and show off his rippling back muscles. For weeks, Chow worked on building his back muscles, alongside his vigorous martial arts training.

In the end, he had to admit, “My back muscles still haven’t come to a point where I am totally happy with them, but I’m taking my shirt off anyway!”

That’s Stephen Chow for you.

Rejected in his youth for being too short, Stephen Chow is now one of East Asia’s most acclaimed directors and actors. He is also well versed in martial arts, writes scripts for his own films, and most importantly, has a brand of humor that he calls mo lei tau (literally translated as nonsense) that consists of Monty Python-like dialogues that are loosely connected and make no sense, but amuse audiences just for that reason.

“Shaolin Soccer,” which he also wrote, directed and was the lead star for, was Hong Kong’s highest grossing movie of all time. Released in 2001, it was another action-comedy with his brand of martial arts and mo lei tau fused with soccer.

In “Kung Fu Hustle,” Stephen Chow plays a small time thief who tries to work his way into the powerful Axe Gang, an underworld group headquartered in a glitzy casino. While attempting to extort money from the residents of “Pig Sty Alley,” he attracts attention from the residents and the Axe Gang, bringing the two worlds face-to-face.

The ensuing clash of Kung Fu titans unearths legendary martial arts masters, and Chow has to face his own fear in seeking to discover what it truly means to be a Kung Fu master.

The role is something Chow has loved to play – he’s an underdog who has to fight powerful forces. Costume designer Shirley Chan says, “At the beginning of the story, Sing is too poor to buy any clothing himself - he’s a mess! Then he joins the gang, so he starts wearing suits. Later he returns to his higher self and has a totally different look, very Chinese, elegant.”

Whether the elegance will pay off in American theaters remains to be seen. But keep a close eye on this film – if it’s anything like Stephen Chow, it won’t stay quiet when it is released.

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