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Every Kung Fu Hustle Fight Ranked

This content was paid for by Sony and created by Looper.

Writer-director-actor Stephen Chow's 2004 masterpiece "Kung Fu Hustle," as one could probably guess from the title, involves a lot of kung fu, particularly multiple styles surrounded in myth that allows its adherents and masters to possess almost supernatural — and definitely superhuman — physical abilities. Set in the 1940s, "Kung Fu Hustle" is also about the massive Axe Gang and Chow's Sing, who strives to join that violent squad, as they find out the hard way that a modest, poverty-stricken enclave should have been avoided, as it's actually full of martial arts geniuses and legends. The result: "Kung Fu Hustle" is loaded with dramatic, wildly imaginative, dazzlingly shot, edited, and enhanced fight sequences, each one an eye-popping story unto itself. The well-placed moments of comedy make the film and its action scenes all the better, making for a movie that pulls on Hong Kong martial arts movie traditions while also becoming something completely new and innovative. Here then are all the fight scenes in "Kung Fu Hustle," ranked by how awesome they are.

The Axe Gang vs. a rival gang

"Kung Fu Hustle" lets viewers know what kind of movie it's going to be right away. In a mood- and plot-establishing shot, a high-ranking gangster and his associates throw a member of a police squad, or "The Crime Busters" through a sign that reads "Crime Busters." It's a violent, darkly comic bit of action that defines the whole film before giving way to a gorgeously shot fight sequence. While this lowly gang was inside "messing with cops" because they arrested a member's wife for spitting, it would seem that the fearsome axe-wielding Axe Gang recruited seemingly hundreds of its members to their side. The Axe Gang opens fire, and viewers expect a loud gun battle to ensue, but "Kung Fu Hustle" takes a turn. Underlings are killed, but the gang leader, the one previously harassing and attacking police, makes a run for it. An Axe Gang operative quickly takes a falling leap to his side, side-arming an axe which cuts off the gang leader's leg, mid-run. That stops him enough so that the Axe Gang's ruthless head Brother Sum hacks him to death.

The landlady of Pigsty Alley vs. anyone who annoys her

Most of the drama in "Kung Fu Hustle" revolves around Pigsty Alley, a poverty-stricken neighborhood ruled over by a usually drunk and flirty landlord and his wife, the landlady, who rules over the area with her hair in curlers, a cigarette in her mouth, a take-no-guff attitude, and a quick temper that easily turns brutally violent. During a lineup in the middle of town for public showers, the water goes off, and a resident who clearly doesn't care about his own well-being yells up to the landlady to complain. She comes all the way down to the street with whirring, animated speed and surprisingly slaps the guy around, a definitive response to his complaints about water rationing. Thoroughly upset now, her husband must bear her wrath, and after he returns home with lipstick on his collar, she demonstrates tremendous strength, if not semi-latent kung fu abilities, by throwing him out of a window, sending the landlord crashing through an awning and to the ground where a flower pot lands perfectly on his head, cracks open, and falls apart, leaving the dirt and plant intact on the dazed man's head. (He lives, but barely; this is clearly a regular occurrence for the couple.)

Sing vs. Pigsty Alley

Sing and Bone (Lam Chi-chung) are a couple of Shanghai street-dwelling nobodies, convinced their lot in life will improve if they can only join the illustrious and nefarious Axe Gang. So desperate are they to be members, they at first pretend to be affiliated, and descend on Pigsty Alley claiming as such. After disintegrating the kids' soccer ball and attempting to blackmail the forlorn local barber because they made Bone, pretending to be a gang boss, look too good, the population of Pigsty Alley surrounds the wannabe gangsters. Sing threatens to take on everybody, but on a one-on-one basis, selecting in succession a number of poorly-chosen opponents. First, an elderly farmer woman punches him in the stomach so hard he spits up blood. Then Sing backs down from a fight from a guy he thinks is short but is actually about eight feet tall, as well as scuffles from an old man and a little kid, both of whom are surprisingly jacked. By this point, the landlady has of course gotten wind of this interloper, who gives him the fight he wanted, slapping him silly and almost chasing him out of town, but not before he throws up a firecracker asking for backup — a signature Axe Gang move — and somehow, comically, and accidentally, hits a real member of the Axe Gang who happens to be passing through.

The Axe Gang vs. Pigsty Alley

And now, it's the Axe Gang against the residents of Pigsty Alley, a surprisingly one-sided fight... with the advantage going to the seemingly humble neighborhood folks. Hundreds of gang members systematically beat up on the residents, provoking a young laborer, a tailor, and a baker into action, unlocking and triggering apparently unknown legendary fighting skills. After dousing a woman and child with gasoline and dropping a lighter, an Axe Gang affiliate has his fire-starting device swiped by the laborer, who kicks about five gang guys in the face in rapid succession, knocking them out with a series of aerial combat moves, and then another dozen for good measure. This one-man army doesn't have a scratch on him before the tailor joins in, throwing his attacker through the window and unveiling his signature move. Using his tape measurer, he slices through wooden clothing racks to drop metal rings onto his wrists, which he uses to defend himself and lay waste to the attacking horde. As the Axe Gang resorts to using guns, the baker uses his massive stirring sticks (and kung fu gifts and power of flight) to smash up firearms and skulls, wielding his tool like a bow staff and knocking out violent gang members with one strike, over and over again. These unlikely heroes have saved the day, decimating the Axe Gang to a handful of whimpering survivors who make a hasty retreat.

The Pigsty Alley Masters vs. each other

Despite saving countless lives and most of the property of Pigsty Alley, the newly proclaimed kung fu "Masters" — the laborer, the tailor, and the baker — find themselves evicted by the landlady because she doesn't want their continued presence to stir up any more trouble. As they prepare to leave their homes, the trio of heroic warriors have a poignant moment that somehow turns into a quick but well-executed fight scene. Declaring themselves "three of a kind," the Masters consider the idea of a little friendly sparring before quietly rejecting the idea. Of course, they wind up fighting, if only to sharpen their skills and to have a little fun. In an area of about 10 square feet, on a stairwell landing, a three-way kung fu battle ensues, and the laborer, tailor, and baker all fight, fly around, and show off their best moves. All are equally matched against one another in a sparring session full of compliments that lasts less than a minute. It ends with all the Masters respecting one another and their hidden fighting abilities, and then the tailor falling off his perch onto a cat, which makes a loud and annoyed squeal that's perfect for the film's tone since "Kung Fu Hustle" remains, at its core, a comedy.

Sing vs. the landlady

After setting the wild events of "Kung Fu Hustle" into motion, Sing and Bone sneak back into Pigsty Alley. After secretly trying to kill the landlady from afar, but hiding in an alley and throwing knives — all of which somehow end up in Sing's arms — Bone attempts to deliver a death blow by throwing a crate of venomous snakes at their target. Problem is, they actually land on Sing and bite him about the lips in such a way that makes them expand to cartoon-like proportions. That's a taste of the classic "Looney Tunes" animation-style fight scene to come. The sneering landlady literally runs Sing out of town, her legs rapidly spinning like that of the Roadrunner as she gives chase, propelling her faster than (and actually past) a train. Sing's legs fortunately kick up Roadrunner-style, too, and before long they're both running down country roads at tremendous speeds. Sing finally evades the landlady when he runs, sideways, underneath a truck. The landlady spins through the air after him with ease, although she lands with a violent thump against a billboard with such force that it strips her of her undergarments (but not the rest of her clothes) as she comically slides to the ground like Wile E. Coyote.

The Masters of Pigsty Alley vs. the Harpists

The landlady is correct in her suspicion that the Axe Gang would want to return to Pigsty Alley to kill those Masters. Before the trio can skip town, Axe Gang leader Brother Sum orders their deaths by hiring the Harpists, two mystical assassins who can use a guzheng (a traditional Chinese stringed instrument) to unleash almost unbeatable ghostly flying daggers and ghastly skeleton warriors. After one the Harpists calmly kills the laborer with his unique methods, the other visits the tailor in his shop where they engage in some high-level hand-to-hand combat. The tailor's ring-protected arms are a viable match for the sharp fingernail-bearing Harpist, until their fight progresses into smashing through walls and they wind up outside where the Master must dodge dozens of guzheng-fired blades shot at him at rapid speeds — along with a massive, spooky, powerful fist. Finally, the baker joins the fight, propelling his spears and self into the air after the Harpists. But a seemingly unlimited supply of knives is too much for the Masters, who suffer fatal wounds. But all hope isn't lost for Pigsty Alley. The landlord and the landlady reveal their own kung fu Master ways, sending the Harpists (and their skeleton warrior ghosts) away with the landlady's supposedly mythical and totally devastating "Lion's Roar."

The Beast vs. the landlady and the landlord

The Axe Gang finally admits Sing, provided he can break the assassin known as "The Beast" out of an asylum. An unassuming elderly man, Axe Gang members don't think much of The Beast until he demonstrates his abilities, such as catching a bullet fired from a gun at point-blank range. Soon, he's forced to square off in a casino against two notorious kung fu masters — the landlord and the landlady from Pigsty Alley, who have audaciously brought a funeral bell to the fight. This ought to be a battle to the death, were the two sides not so well-matched. They attack The Beast simultaneously, which doesn't much faze him. They fly through the air, fists at the ready, which the Beast easily diffuses with a quick one-two punch and then sends them through bannisters, railings, and walls with some casual kicks. The landlady has little choice but to use her "Lion's Roar" from deep within, which the Beast counters with some moves that twist his rivals' arms almost out of their sockets. As a finishing blow, she bellows her signature yelp through the bell, which rips up floorboards and reduces the building to a pile of debris. The Beast offers up his surrender, but it's just a way to buy time before he stabs the duo with a flowering spear, only for all three to wind up all pretzeled up in a three-way impasse.

Sing vs. The Beast

Almost every fight in "Kung Fu Hustle" is more exciting than the last, so naturally, the film's best battle is its climactic showdown. Pummeled to near death by the Beast, the violence somehow resets Sing's "qi flow," unlocking his unparalleled kung fu abilities, Sing is actually "The One," and the Axe Gang comes at him in Pigsty Alley. He avoids their attacks with only slight movements, then casually tosses combatants aside before obliterating their feet or knocking them out with a single kick or punch (with pinball machine sound effects for emphasis). Sing bravely walks through a hallway of goons, calmly sending them through ceilings and windows, one at a time, to reach the Beast. 

The Beast unleashes his "Toad Style" kung fu in an aerial game of chicken, which sends Sing thousands of feet skyward, where he regains his composure by balancing on a high-flying bird of prey. Encountering a cloud in the shape of the Buddha, he serenely descends, unleashing the Buddhist Palm technique he learned as a child. Transforming into a human ball of blame as he heads toward the Beast, he leaves a giant, hand-shaped crater in the ground around the Beast without even touching him. Once again, the Beast fake-surrenders in order to stage an attack, but it doesn't affect the One, who disarms the once legendary assassin to the point where he falls at his feet.