Review: Struck By Lightning. Bitten By A Cobra. KUNG FURY Is A Giddy Blast Of B-Movie Entertainment.
By Todd Brown
Ladies and gentlemen, I could write quite a lot here about how the internet has democratized filmmaking and storytelling, and how that has had impacts both good and bad. I could cite statistics about crowd funding, viewership patterns and the generational split between the thirty and fortysomethings who continue to drive theatrical exhibition and the children growing up having never known a world without broadband, who consume their media instantly, on demand, on whatever size screen happens to be handy. But what all those numbers would boil down to is this: Kung Fury changes everything.
Yes, yes, you’re thinking hyperbole and all that. But, no. Think about it. What we have here is an online phenomenon, a kitschy video game and b-movie pastiche dreamt up by some guy in Sweden whose only previous IMDB entries were as an account manager on two episodes of television. Released online as a goofy trailer with its creator in the lead, it then became a crowd funding phenomenon that then recruited David Hasselhoff to the cause, and finally had its world premiere in selection as part of Directors Fortnight at Cannes. Let that sink in for a moment. We’ve arrived at a bizarre moment in time where some kid in Sweden can make a YouTube video presenting a concept that then goes on to premiere in fucking Cannes. And why? Because, good god, it’s bloody well brilliant. After years of online ‘sensations’ that have tended to over promise and under deliver, Kung Fury shows up and blows the fucking doors off.
Written, directed by and starring David Sandberg in the title role, Kung Fury is the nostalgia drenched tale of a renegade Miami cop / kung fu master who realizes he must travel back in time to kill Adolf Hitler – the Kung Fuhrer – before Hitler has the chance to travel in time to ‘modern’ day Miami himself to wreak havoc in the present. Along the way we’re treated to a physical confrontation with an angry video game, reptilian partner Triceracop, Viking maidens with machine guns, more deadpan one liners than you can shake a stick at, and David Hasselhoff.
To be clear, narrative cohesion is not the greatest strength of Kung Fury. Character arcs and insight into the human condition do not abound in these parts. What we do get, however, is a thirty-minute long, nonstop assault of some of the most astounding visual gags ever assembled in one place. Kung Fury knows its audience, knows it damn well, and while it has little to offer to anyone outside of its particular niche, for people within that niche this is absolute gold.
A huge percentage of what makes Kung Fury works rests on the many talents of Sandberg himself. As a leading man he is blessed with a deliciously deadpan delivery and wicked comic timing blended with a legitimately compelling physical presence. As a writer he is an absolutely unstoppable idea machine. And as a director he is bold, ambitious, and enormously gifted on the technical side of things. Take Sandberg’s talent and then throw in SNL veteran Jorma Taccone’s utterly hysterical take on Hitler, Andreas Cahling’s Thor, and the work of his brilliant VFX team and you end up with something that feels like Dario Russo and David Ashby’s Danger 5 on speed.