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August 27, 2014

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

by Franz Patrick


Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
★ / ★★★★

Spoofs and parodies are very difficult to pull off with grace and a consistent level of humor. Steve Oedekerk’s “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist” validates the previous statement because the resulting work is neither graceful nor does it offer a strong enough consistency with its jokes to inspire those who may not be kung fu or martial arts aficionados to keep watching. The film attempts to entertain, if such a word is even applicable to this dross, solely on a sensory level and so it must be judged within the limitations it sets for itself.

It is an interesting choice to combine images from Yu Wang’s “Tiger and Crane Fist,” also known as “The Savage Killers,” and original footages shot by Oedekerk to coordinate the plot away from the former. But creative choices that work stop there. Halfway through, one starts to get a sinking feeling that it has peaked and there is absolutely no point in seeing the rest other than to subject oneself with torture.

It is plagued with incredibly bad dubbing. Worse, it is done on purpose for comic effect. While there are kung fu movies in existence with egregious dubbing, other elements are present to make up for what is missing. Here, fighting scenes that show artistry are taken directly from “Tiger and Crane First.” The so-called original shots are so transparently awful that the camera attempts to utilize extreme close-ups to hide its inadequacies—as if we were stupid enough not to notice.

Admittedly, there is one action scene that I enjoyed… which involves a computerized cow, udders and all, that knows kung fu. Yes, you read that right. There is a cow. That knows kung fu. (Tip: It is best to search for a YouTube clip than to have to sit through an embarrassing parade of incompetence.) I liked that the cow looks like it is rabid and on steroids. This is not a back-handed compliment. I admired that, at least with regards to the cow, the filmmaker is willing to go all the way in a manner that works.

Comedy most often works when it does not always try to make the audience laugh. In other words, humor should be treated as a punctuation point—not as letters. Once it is treated like the latter, audiences are bound to feel desensitized and it becomes that much more difficult to impress the viewer. The writer-director is desperate for laughs—and it shows. For instance, it might have been better if there was only one character given really bad dubbing. Every time that person spoke, he or she and whatever was about to said would highly likely stand out.

What is the plot? I place it here because it really does not matter. But for those who might still be interested (I implore you: watch something else), it is this: Representing the aims of the Evil Council, Master Pain murders an entire family because he and his group are convinced that the baby who had just been born is “The Chosen One.” The baby escapes and over time, he is able to learn and hone his fighting skills to avenge his family.

“Kung Pow! Enter the Fist” commands a brand of humor but that brand is not original or exciting because the picture fails to excel in any one thing. Anybody can grab a camera and employ extreme close-ups. Anybody can put on a wig and act really silly. And anybody can make really annoying voices. Imagine: This was made with millions of dollars. That money could have been donated to the poor, to animal shelters, or research. But no, it was used to create this hogwash.

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