Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “It’s not just a film, it’s an event.” We’re all familiar with that grand notion towards cinematic masterpieces of the past. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We’re all familiar with that passé notion towards cinematic rehashes of the present. Now imagine if there was an ultimate hybrid of the absolute best and worst of each category. A freak-of-nature homage to the revered cornerstones and disdained blunders in pop culture. Kung Fury is that revolutionary clichéd beast of an anomaly.
I welcome you to think—”Hyperbole much?” It’s a knee-jerk reaction that’ll only heighten the effects of this warped epic. Prepare to question reality yet bask in the unraveling of all you’ve come to accept. For you see, this acid trip love letter to martial arts and cop films of their pristine ’80s heyday sucks you into a wormhole of confused bliss. And at the end of the tunnel the only thing you’ll be sure of is that your perception of film is forever changed. This is mostly thanks to the relatively unknown writer, director, and star of Kung Fury, David Sandberg. His Swedish production company, Laser Unicorns, have unlocked the B-rate holy grail of ’80s pop culture callbacks, easter eggs, and inside jokes. It’s quite the time paradox capsule to behold.
Even more insane, Kung Fury became an unstoppable online phenomenon through sheer ambition, ingenuity, and risk within the most niche of markets. Back in December of 2013, Sandberg and friends unleashed a Kickstarter campaign and teaser trailer with just $5,000 out of pocket. In a deadline just shy of a month, instant diehard fans raised $630,019, shattering the initial goal of $200,000. While the second target of $1,000,000 failed, that didn’t stop them from cultivating the most balls-to-the-wall action-comedy ever conceived under such a strict budget. The methods used for the final product are nothing short of awe-inspiring for any underdog filmmaker who inspires to create works of art against the grain of afforded luxuries.
Kung Fury is a testament to how digitally rendered environments, CG animated characters, and the magic of green screen doesn’t have to take away from one’s vision. If implemented with extreme purpose and care, they can be irreplaceable tools to make an unbelievable world seem as tangible as the one we live in. There’s a level of resourcefulness that knows no bounds in key decisions like giving the film the illusion that everything is being viewed on a worn out VHS copy being played on an old VCR. A majority of the shots were done at a personal office with nothing but a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Sony FS700 at times. Not even a shortage of costumes or extras could halt certain crisp scenes from coming to life with expert editing tricks.
Aside from the behind-the-curtains mumbo-jumbo, lets assume you aren’t one of the over 18,000,000 who have already watched Kung Fury’s chaotic beauty for free on Youtube. What exactly is it about the brass tacks of the story itself that makes it the be-all and end-all of nostalgic tributes? Well, I could simply tell you to check out the otherworldly music video for the sweet synth-pop theme song “True Survivor,” where you can see such snippets sprinkled throughout as a national treasure like David Hasselhoff croons and postures in all his retro glory. There’s also a classic beat ’em up video game, Kung Fury: Street Rage, to sink your teeth into. But the source of badassery is a Miami renegade cop who must use his new and deadly form of kung fu, obtained by being struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra, to defeat the most evil war criminal and flamboyant kung fu master to ever exist: Adolf Hitler, a.k.a. Kung Führer.
As you could’ve guessed from the pictures alone, Kung Fury is a 31-minute sensory overload of the most jaw-dropping visuals you’ve ever witnessed. The outlandish plot literally sounds like something a drifter would come up with after dropping psychedelics for too many years. Bless each and every second for being so legendary in its mind-melting “what-the-fuckery.” There’s bad vocal dubbing, cheesy one-liners, and countless other “so ’80s it hurts” tropes. My favorite is the variety of montages made that much more sweet with their archaic PowerPoint graphic animation. I’m still rolling in my chair at gags like a Power Glove and Microbee keyboard used for time travel by a mullet-sporting, technobabble hacker. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with stuff like a minigun-toting, wolf-riding, Viking valkyrie babe; Saturday-morning cartoon afterlife; half-man, half-Triceratops cop; or Thor annihilating a horde of Nazis in gas masks. Every bit of the fight choreography and stunt work throughout the film is as equally matched in surrealism.
When you take into consideration that those fever dream nods barely scratch the surface of what’s in store, the most terrifyingly euphoric component to all of this is that it somehow adds up. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything or anyone portrayed in it elsewhere quite like in Kung Fury. The only downfall to be pointed out is the short runtime, as the film comes to an abrupt close on such a blue-balls cliffhanger. However, with the unfathomable amount of praise and exposure David Sandberg and Laser Unicorns are receiving, a proper full-length feature has never been more probable and profitable. If this is what an ex-commercial director can do with so little, I tremble in amazement and anticipation for his big-budget crack. In the meantime, the bigwigs out there could learn a thing or two from such an innovative passion. Especially when this is what a mutual trust and respect between fans and filmmakers achieves.