I mentioned something silly like British accents, sci-fi, badass heroines, and the poor schlub that gets beaten up the most in a group fight compared to the other nameless thugs, which always invokes my excitement and my sympathy simultaneously. My list could have gone on much longer, but Kung Fu Hustle (2004) looms large in the memory for having so many things I love.
That sense of humor is the voice of the movie. I’ve heard some of the complaints where the humor is characterized as too reminiscent of Looney Tunes, Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner stuff, but I think that is an intentional choice and works for different reasons. One is cultural; Chow in particular is a purveyor of a brand of absurdist, nonsensical humor traditional in Hong Kong called mo lei tau (“makes no sense” in Cantonese), and this humor fits the larger than life characters in this tall tale. The other is more narrative; Chow’s main character makes so many wrong choices because he was traumatized at a young age attempting to defend someone. When that attempt fails, he turns to a life of petty crime avoiding doing the right thing, trapped in the memory of his childhood trauma. He brags about wanting to be a gangster so he can get the women and money that come along with it, but even that is a failure because those around him can see that he doesn’t have the true malice or strength of will that a real criminal might have. So the whimsical tone and the nonsensical humor takes on a new significance because it reflects the immaturity and stunted development of the lead character, who uses his humor to hide from his responsibility to do the right thing. It’s only later when Chow’s character gets some sense knocked into him (literally) that he becomes what he was meant to be, confronting his childhood demons, and embracing his responsibility like he should.