Of course we watched Kung Fury. We had to. It’s our job. But, as writer Nicholas Lay finds out, this Kickstarter backed 30 minute long 80’s parody is also pretty awesome!
by Nicholas Lay (@laidbaremedia)
Ah the 1980s action movie parody/homage, always a more than welcome distraction from the daily grind of non-80s action movie-related real life. Having seen and heard a plethora of excited keyboard mashing regarding a certain Swedish short, Kung Fury (neat), the latest incarnation of the genre to sweep our fair world wide web, I owed it to my Sunday afternoon to chill the fuck out and give it a watch. It was a good decision. Dropping free-to-stream a few days ago, seemingly out of nowhere, writer/director David Sandberg’s action/cop/martial arts b-movie piss-take is exactly what you want from thirty minutes of mindless entertainment. I wouldn’t say I completely lost my shit over it – like most people online seem to have done – as it’s all been done before, with various aspects even appearing as recently as the video game spin-off Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and soon to crop up again in the upcoming, no doubt step-too-far Iron Sky sequel. Having said that, it’s impossible not to appreciate the hell out of Sandberg’s larger-than-life creation.
For starters, the film is incredibly well made, with seemingly every penny of the $630k Kickstarter cash pledged being plunged into the production, and then some, to create a technical masterpiece of indie filmmaking. Unfazed by the scale of his vision versus the budget available, Sandberg utilises green screen and props with perfect balance, resulting in a look that’s part epic, part comical, and altogether full-on 80s. The opening flippin’-skateboard shot sets the tone for the countless outlandish action sequences that follow, peppered with old school Verhoeven-style head explosions, never-ending firearm clips, and highlighted throughout by increasingly insane superpowers, ridiculous weaponry, and mass kung-fu duels. Shot smartly and edited seamlessly, particularly the raw footage against the vast, varying green screen projected backdrops, and complete with a smile-inducing scratchy VHS-style overlay at times, such a well coordinated mish-mash – backed by a classic, synth-heavy score of the era – demonstrates that Sandberg, technically, is riding the crest of a wave that most bedroom-ridden keyboard warrior fanboy wannabes can only dream of.
Giving the action its relevancy by way of helping to emphasise its wholly ridiculous nature is a quality blend of writing, characters, and, here and there, performances. The plot is total and utter nonsense, as one would expect from this sort of crazy spoof-laden capering, with the usual 80s-influenced coming together of Nazis, dinosaurs, time travel, gods, guns, and gore more than present and correct. Anyone can mix this sort of stuff up in a script and hope it comes out funny, but numerous projects, from low budget YouTube clips to motion pictures are proof, more often than not, that this is not always the case. Sandberg certainly has a few moments of ‘meh’ present within his writing (the Viking-era scenes especially are fairly humdrum), but for the most part the premise, individual scenarios, and particularly the dialogue are nothing short of fucking hilarious – and I mean that in a good way.
So many little moments inspire genuine mirth, from the evil arcade-transformer-bot lasering with middle fingers raised and fumbling with a parking meter in order to salvage more quarters, to an overly camp Hitler screaming ‘Fuck you!” and opening fire at the police through a back-in-the-day brick mobile – the latter of which had me in the biggest fit of practically crying movie-related laughter since god knows when. Completing the 80s checklist is one of my favourite sequences, Kung Fury’s anime/superhero drawn encounter with a lisp-wielding, justice obstructing cobra, complete with subtle butt clenching/flexing on the part of our hero and a great bit of voice work by Frank Sanderson.
When it comes to the characters and their depictions, Sandberg himself – who somehow manages also to star in the titular role – leads the way with a downright hysterical deadpan performance, delivering each of his wonderfully clichéd one-liners and sketchy exposition with all the stereotypical macho bullshit of every 80s action star that ever lived. The fact that a fair old bunch of the other actors involved aren’t all that great doesn’t matter too much, as the consistently amusing nature of the characters themselves (including a half-man, half-triceratops with a British accent called, wait for it, Triceracop – for fuck’s sake) more than makes up for it. And that goes for the non-human characters/beings too, of whom, from the get go, you don’t even think about questioning in terms of either existence or motive.
Cutting so deep into fanboy action culture that it practically bleeds 1980s throwbacks, Kung Fury is a textbook example of the sort of entertainment the internet was made for. Slick, funny, and enjoyable from beginning to end with only a few minor hiccups, this shameless thirty-minute flick is an ideal way of killing that end-of-the-day office countdown on a dull midweek afternoon. Or you could just, you know, get really high and whack it on. Either way, Sandberg’s loving enthusiasm for his pet project shines through, and for that he is to be commended. In the end the whole thing turned out far better than expected thanks to his efforts to make damn sure it was all worth it, even getting period hero The Hoff onboard to complete the circle of 80s life.
So watch and appreciate it while it’s fresh as, no matter how funny it is for half an hour, this sort of thing can get real old, real fast. By that I mean, in my opinion, the production benefitted massively from the fact that Sandberg and his team didn’t manage to raise enough money to make a full-length feature film. Over ninety plus minutes the novelty tends to wear off around the thirty-minute mark (see Iron Sky for reference), meaning Kung Fury got it spot on. As a follow up of some kind already seems inevitable, however, I’ll make the case right now, if it has to be made, for a sequel/prequel/whatever to be shot in the same short format. I’m happy to be proved wrong of course, but with the deserved success the film is currently courting online, the more-than-likely difficult to sustain original concept of a feature length version could realistically be green lit, to which I say…
…I got your permit right here!
Kung Fury is available to watch for free over on YouTube: