Friday, November 25, 2011

Movie Review: Kung Fu Hip Hop

I'm pretty sure Kung Fu Hip Hop was conceived of by a marketing director.  I picture some fat guy who despises youth culture, chomping a cigar in a dark room somewhere in Beijing.  He calls in his director, Fu Huayang, and starts shouting:  “What do kids these days like?  Shut up, I'll tell you what they like!  They like hip hop!  They like dancing!  And who the hell doesn't like kung fu?!  So, go go Go!  Make me a movie with hip hop kung fu dancing.  Or kung fu hip hop dancing.  I don't give a damn, as long as the kids line up and buy the tickets.  Go!  Why are you still here, looking at me like I'm crazy?”

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Kung Fu Hip Hop
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 1.3 out of 5
MST3K-Ability 4.6 out of 5
OVERALL QUALITY 1.5 out of 5
Chinese Movie Kung Fu Hip Hop
Director Fu Huayang
Actors Fan Bingbing, Jordan Chan, Poppin Hyne Joan
Year 2008
Format Viewed VCD Kam & Ronson KAM2927 What is a VCD?

Thus, Kung Fu Hip Hop was born. And how could it miss? It's got “awesome” kung fu, “awesome” DJ-ing, “awesome” “hip hop” “dancing”, “awesome” “rap.” Wait, why all the scare quotes? Well...

It turns out there's a really big problem with this film.  They overlooked something very important.  Nobody involved at any stage of Kung Fu Hip Hop seemed to know enough about
  • kung fu
  • hip hop
  • dancing
  • DJ-ing
  • or rap music
to actually make any of these appear even slightly “awesome” in this film.

The movie apparently had a decent budget, but they really should have spent some of that on a decent fight choreographer, a decent music consultant, and a decent dance choreographer. 

Fun Fact:  The dance choreographer they hired was called Director of Dance:  Ice Cream.  OK, I can see what he's trying to do, with that “hip hop name” and all.  But, no.  That's a bad miss. 

If this movie had been made by Stephen Chow, I bet it would have been really, really good.  It's not.  But, from the Gweilo's perspective, it's still quite amusing all the same.  It's just that most of the fun of watching Kung Fu Hip Hop comes from seeing what the director hopes will be “awesome”, but isn’t even close.

Kung Fu Hip Hop Fashion Advice
Bling bling bling, eh?
I'll call my dentist now!
Do you want proof that what director Fu Huayang thinks is amazing is actually only "amazing"?  I'll give you proof!

The hero of the film is a down-and-out drunken bum who has a lot of problems.  It turns out, because he's from the streets, he's an “awesome” hip hop dancer, and an “awesome” rapper! 

"Ah, gosh!"  The bum despairs at his empty bindle.
In the clip below, there's a big hip hop dancing showcase going on at a famous Beijing club.  The hero bum is staggering around outside the club, drunk and half frozen.  International superstar DJ “Tina” is on the decks, stabbing randomly at two turntables and a two-channel cross-mixer in ways that would not produce any music in real life.  (In the film though, her goofy DJ antics somehow produce some simplistic techno.)

Hint:  If you have to tell your viewers that she's awesome, then maybe she isn't!
Meanwhile, the drunken bum starts to go into convulsions in the alley behind the club.  It looks like he's going to throw up.  The rent-a-cops in the club notice the bum's spastic seizures on their security cameras, but unbelievably they all decide that his jerking around is actually some kind of really awesome hip hop dancing.  They get so excited watching the bum “dance” that they wreck the keyboard on their security system, which somehow malfunctions and projects our “dancing” hero up onto the big screen inside the club.  Everyone present stops their own dancing in utter amazement, and all agree that the drunken bum is doing “amazing” “hip hop” “dancing”.  SPOILER:  HE ISN'T!  HE REALLY, REALLY ISN'T.  I guarantee this is the most inadvertently funny “awesome dancing” scene you will ever see in any movie, ever.

The drunken bum amazes with his "awesome" hip hop dance moves

A little later, DJ Tina runs into this same bum on the street, selling cheap imitations of name brand merchandise.  And “rapping”.  Oh yes!  His “rapping” is so unbelievably “amazing” that, like Tina, we viewers are all supposed to be extremely impressed and blown away. 

The drunken bum amazes again, this time with "awesome" rapping.
"Snop dog funcky" indeed!

Watch these clips and you will see exactly why this movie is so amusing, and why it provides such amazingly good MST3K material, from the Gweilo's perspective.  By the way, the drunken bum hero's name is "Chu Dong."  Yes, Chu Dong!  But, you know what?  I don't even have to go there.  His rapping and dancing are hilarious enough all by themselves.

If some guy named "Dong" says this to you,
you should probably get out of the way!
As I mentioned, drunken hero bum Chu Dong has various problems he needs to solve, like a blind sister who needs expensive surgery.  Fortunately, there’s a hip hop dancing contest coming up in Beijing with a million dollar prize!  Unfortunately, Chu Dong refuses to do it, and stays reluctant at every turn.  No, no, says Dong.  I will never dance again!  The reluctant hero is a common enough plot strategy in Chinese movies.  But to make the reluctant hero plot device work, there needs to be some kind of tragic happening in the hero's past.  Maybe Dong's “awesome” dancing killed a bunch of nuns and baby seals long ago, so he vowed to never dance again.  In Kung Fu Hip Hop, Chu Dong acts like he’s made this vow, but just like actual kung fu and actual hip hop dancing, Fu Huayang left this crucial bit—the reason why—out of the film.

After a while, Dong gets in a fight and decides he'll compete for the prize money after all.  So, of course he recruits a bunch of auto mechanics as his dancing crew (does “auto mechanic” immediately spring to mind when you think “nimble dancer”?)  There is also a second, evil dance crew thrown in to act the part of their rivals.  And of course we get a few fight scenes between the crews, in which the director apparently decided that poor lighting could make up for the poor fight choreography:

Can you make out what's going on in this fight?
Yeah, me neither.
This all leads up to a very long final competition scene that is one of the most self aggrandizing and self indulgent things I've ever seen in a movie.  We get a full half an hour of fans screaming at all this “amazing” hip hop dancing.  The director then takes us far and wide, showing increasing numbers of fans all across China, from babies to old grandmothers, tuning in to watch this very important competition on TV, and being thoroughly and totally “amazed” by the “amazing” “amazingness” of it all.


Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  Not awesome.  Not even slightly.  But "awesome" enough to be a lot of fun.  Recommended!


  1. You know they came out with a part 2?

    Funny review by the way

  2. @anon

    Wow, that's pretty remarkable. The first one had enough of a fan base that they decided to go ahead and make a sequel?!