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By now most fans know the unfortunate plight of Stephen Chow's facetious masterpiece Shaolin Soccer after US distributor Miramax got their hands on it. I can still remember sitting in a darkened theatre watching that dreadfully dubbed trailer, complete with its digital underwear and an impossible 'PG' rating. I leaned over to my friend sitting beside me and exclaimed quietly, "They f@%ked it all up, I can tell". Honestly, I never bothered seeing that cut, and apparently nobody else did either, as it seemed to take another year to find release only to deflate immediately at the American box office.

Of course this wasn't Miramax’s first offensive deconstructing of a brilliant Asian film, heck, they even managed to mangle some bad ones. Most of Jet Li's best films have been gutted in one form or another for their various video releases, and Mr. Quentin Tarantino himself had to save not one, but two Kung Fu epics from unfortunate edits and permanent public obscurity ( Iron Monkey and Hero). The fact of the matter is that most wide release foreign films are altered by their releasing studio, one exception being Sony Picture Classics uncut/undubbed release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a decision that was well rewarded with both awards and cash. Even the recent US release of House of Flying Daggers was censored in favour of a 'PG-13' rating.

When Sony Picture Classics released Kung Fu Hustle in American theatres this year, most fans were relieved by the presence of an 'R' rating under the marquee. Though the film wasn't exactly ultra-violent, the original release was strong enough to garner the rating. Then the accusations of alterations and edits began to flood in.

Why would Sony edit an 'R' rated release? The most likely answer is that they were aiming for a PG-13 and didn't get it even after a few self induced cuts. Why would they leave the cuts in the final release even after receiving their 'R' rating? God only knows.

Here I have assembled the differences I found between the region three release (uncut) and the newer region one release (cut). This is by no means an exhaustive effort, and I’ve a feeling there are a couple snips I may have missed, but it still offers a glimpse of the inane effort put into altering the film for a more child-friendly rating.

Warning: Spoilers

Changes

After a heated fight, the landlady throws her husband out of their top story window. After he hits the ground she drops a potted plant on his head. There is a pause, then blood pools from his noggin. Note the brighter colours of the Hong Kong version. The region one release has a more even look, but the colours are muted.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
During his initial confrontation with the people of Pig Sty Alley, Sing dares a middle-aged woman to punch him in the stomach. Her surprisingly powerful blow causes him to spit blood. The region one version digitally removes the blood that actually comes out of his mouth. It only lasts a split second, and was almost impossible to get a good cap of, but here's my best representation. Note the dribble on Chow's bottom lip. Also note the clarity of the Hong Kong image, the general blurriness of the region one release is unquestionable here.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
After the punch Chow cuts to the woman's face, now slathered in Sings blood. The region one release cuts to a different shot of a bloodless face, obviously from an earlier shot judging from the background extra’s placements. The woman speaks back to Sing in the region one version, in the uncut version she looks at him, frowns, and walks away.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Later, before the malevolent musicians attack the three masters, there is an expansive crane shot that moves gracefully throughout the Alley set. One resident can be seen doing something in the bathroom area that one would normally do in a bathroom area: taking a dump. Apparently Sony thought human waste would be deemed offensive here in the states, so they removed it. Note the colour difference again.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Cuts

During his unfortunate run in with The Beast, Sing is beaten to a bloody pulp. After the first punch, which rips his shirt, he spits a fountain of blood.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
Then the Beast tosses him into the air and kicks him into the floor. This shot remains, as do a few of the punches made directly to Sing's face. What is cut though is a lingering shot of the Beast's bloody knuckles.

Kung Fu Hustle Region 1 Cuts
These edits are the most obvious and make the biggest difference in the perspective rating, mostly due to their tone. I'd say a fist that bloody would probably constitute an R, especially when it stands as one of the only laugh-less scenes of violence in the entire film.

Conclusions


So there you have it. Though none of these cuts ruin the film, they still represent an upsetting trend of studios pre-sanitizing entertainment for theatrical releasing. This is a small case, and I don’t see Sony releasing an ‘unrated’ version of Kung Fu Hustle any time soon, but it still remains a symptom of a larger problem. I'd recommend the uncut version anyway, specifically the new Hong Kong Special Edition. If any readers happen to have noticed an edit I missed, I’d like hear about it. Either e-mail me or leave a comment below. Thank you.

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