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The Goofy Martial Arts Hidden Gem You Can Watch On Netflix Right Now

Kung fu action movies are a staple of popcorn movie culture. Depending on your age, your gateway star is different — Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and so on have all indoctrinated untold thousands (if not millions) of martial arts fans. Many American film genres have been inspired by kung fu, as well. A lot of the blaxploitation filmmakers of the 1970s were obsessed with Bruce Lee. Even the action sequences from The Matrix wouldn't have looked the way they did without the Wachowski sisters obsessing over Yun-Fat Chow's performance in Hard Boiled (via Bold Entrance).

But for every serious attempt at a kung fu movie, there is also a kung fu comedy. Go back and watch Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite or The Human Tornado and you'll see the comedian turn his own physical ineptitude into comic gold by trying to ape the style of serious kung fu movies of the 1970s.

In the 2000s, it was all about Ang Lee's directorial style in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which worked in perfect harmony with established actors like Michelle Yeoh and relative newcomers like Ziyi Zhang. Crouching Tiger was such a massive, award-winning juggernaut that it spawned an era of comedic (yet still well-choreographed) films made in homage. 

Since you've probably already binged all three seasons of Cobra Kai, there's a good chance you're due for a rewatch of a classic movie that blends comedy, drama, and martial arts action perfectly — Kung Fu Hustle.

Kung Fu Hustle pairs well with Cobra Kai

American Westerns come in a few different flavors, but one of the most common stories involves a stranger coming to a troubled town to help the townsfolk fight off violent interlopers. In 1974 this trope was perfectly parodied by Mel Brooks in the classic comedy Blazing Saddles.

It turns out that Chinese kung fu filmmakers are just as adept at both playing into and poking fun at Western tropes. Kung Fu Hustle is, in many ways, a brilliant inversion of the Western parody. In the film, Stephen Chow plays Sing, a slovenly failure who grew up believing he was destined to be a kung fu genius. In lieu of actual success, he attempts to join the Axe Gang by attacking members of his own community of Pigsty Alley.

Instead of being the Western hero who strides into town, Sing plays a loser would-be villain. Instead of Pigsty Alley being full of helpless townsfolk, it is populated with multiple kung fu masters. The story is about the adversarial relationship Sing has with Pigsty Alley, and how he has to meet them on their terms to become the hero he originally dreamed he could be.

What separates Kung Fu Hustle from something like Dolemite or The Human Tornado is that Stephen Chow is, in fact, a very talented physical performer — as are the rest of the cast of Kung Fu Hustle. Just like with Cobra Kai, we get some really solid fight sequences, and as Cobra Kai does with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), Kung Fu Hustle takes the point-of-view of a disgraced villain who might become a hero if he can get out of his own way.

Kung Fu Hustle is available to stream on Netflix now.