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King Of Beggars
cast: Stephen Chow, Man Cheung, Norman Chu

director: Gordon Chan

96 minutes (12) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Here's another amiable offering of kung fu comedy featuring the talents of Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer). Chow is So Chan the lethargic son of the General of Canton who in order to win the affections of the beautiful courtesan Yu-shang enters a contest to secure a place as a kung fu scholar. So Chan crosses swords with the Emperor's nephew and the enigmatic Lord Chiu, and when it is discovered, by dint of his illiteracy, that he cheated in the preliminary rounds of the contest, he and his father are reduced to the status of beggars.

Yu-shang is a member of the Association of Beggars and pledged to destroy Chiu for his murder of someone or other and Chiu himself has his own agenda, inveigling himself close to the throne in order to seize power. Frankly the plot doesn't matter, although the So Chan character's alter-ego So Hat Yi is an actual historical character, the film is a showcase for the laidback charm of Chow and features the quasi mystical presentation of various schools of kung fu that seems to be the norm nowadays.

The film doesn't take itself too seriously, the production values are uniformly high, the comedy is okay and there is also a risible song in the final third. King Of Beggars doesn't have the postmodern ability to confound expectations displayed in Kung Fu Hustle and, at times, it's hard to care for the characters or what might become of them, but that's alright. The sleepy form of kung fu that So Chan becomes adept at seems to be a spoof of Jackie Chan's Drunken Master technique and apparently Chow's films are full of these kinds of send-ups so that might be the case. The world awaits a critical thesis on the new direction the martial arts phenomenon is taking, but not from this reviewer.

DVD extras: interview and interactive Stephen Chow biography (text with links to trailers).

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