Meet the Axe Gang: a cackling army of sharp-suited nutbags who rule ’40s Hong Kong with techniques apparently gleaned from The Sweeney Todd Guide To Middle Management. Rule, that is, until they irk the inhabitants of a ghetto, thanks to tactless new guy Sing (Chow). Before you can say ‘Werther’s Original’, three of Pig-Sty Alley’s bus-pass-wielding residents administer a shoeing of such magnitude that the gangstas are sent squealing home.
The stage is thus set for some almighty rucks, as the gang struggle to regain authority over a handful of ageing but exceptionally hard kung fu masters. There’s a mawkish flashback sub-plot about a girl with a lolly and, um, enforced watersports, but even Jessica Simpson would have little problem keeping track here. Happily, this leaves plenty of time for caving-in faces.
The abundant barney scenes feature plenty of the expected high-wire histrionics, but what really sets this Hollywood-value effort apart is the slathering of CG chicanery. Far from being an irritation, fight director Woo-ping Yuen’s (The Matrix, Kill Bill) blasé approach to physics lifts the martial-artistry to a unique plateau somewhere between homage and spoof.