This is a review for a movie called Kung Fury by a studio called Laser Unicorns. If that doesn’t set your expectations accordingly, then I really can’t help you. Sometimes, all you want is something crazy, silly, bizarre, earnest to a fault, and absolutely amazing. It’s that last quality that’s the most surprising, but in the best way possible.
Here’s the thing: Kung Fury is a comedy, and I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes. It’s the kind of movie that only works because it’s hysterical, and it’s the kind of movie that’s best enjoyed without any information and heavily inebriated. I first watched it in such a state, with something like 11 shots of Wild Turkey coursing through my veins. I laughed for its entire half hour run time, and I want you to experience it in the same way.
The nature of the review, however, demands I talk about this movie in all of its various capacities, but I assure you that I’ll try my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. If you’re interested in any way though, go ahead and check out Kung Fury here.
Kung Fury is about Kung Fury (David Sandberg), the world’s best kung fu master and police officer. After a battle with an angry, middle-finger shooting arcade machine that destroys a large portion of whatever futuristic 1980’s city the movie takes place in, he’s forced to go back in time to stop Hitler, a Kung Fuhrer master.
To be honest, that’s really the whole movie. It makes no sense, but it isn’t supposed to. Kung Fury lives and dies on its affectionate parody of old action movies, from the ham-fisted everything, overacting, cheesy one liners, over-the-top action and blood, and being well … just really bizarre. This is a movie where laser raptors and Thor show up, and that somehow makes just as much sense as everything else going on.
Yet it works. It works so amazingly well, and just thinking about it is making me smile like a lunatic.
Kung Fury might be dumb, but it isn’t stupid. It knows exactly what it’s doing, what it’s parodying, and what it wants to achieve. It’s filled with 80’s action-movie clichés, from the “you’re the best damn partner I’ve ever had” line to Kung Fury butting heads with the Police Chief and being assigned a new partner to keep him in line. (I’m pretty sure all of those things happen in a Dirty Harry movie, though in Kung Fury, the new partner is an anthropomorphic triceratops.) Kung Fury doesn’t exist to deconstruct any of these tropes or clichés though; it merely wants to poke fun of them while also taking them as far as they can possibly go.
The whole package is sold with some wonderful acting on the part of David Sandberg, who nails all of the crazy dialogue. His comedic timing is perfect, with some lines being said with absolute earnest and others almost stuttered, as if he himself cannot believe the dialogue he wrote. This same praise can be given to the supporting cast, though they sadly don’t get as much dialogue or screen time.
Jorma Taccone’s Adolf Hitler is really the only other true character in the whole movie, but he uses his limited screen time well and might be my favorite Adolf Hitler in any media. He’s both flamboyant and dangerous, overacts just enough to be funny while not being obnoxious, and a kung fu master too! Kung fu Hitler is surprisingly fun, despite the fact that he’s a complete monster.
Aesthetically, the movie is surprisingly well done. Given that it’s a passion project with a small budget, it really has no right to make respectable-looking dinosaurs and giant robots, but it has both, and they feature heavily in the end fight sequence. They certainly aren’t perfect, but the 1980’s coating of paint that covers everything allows them to blend in without Kung Fury’s low budget showing itself. It’s a prime example of an art style working better than attempted photo-realism, and just like, say The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Kung Fury will look good years from now.
The movie’s soundtrack is also quite nice. From the sound effects to the synth’s, it sounds like a 1980’s action flick.
Kung Fury has a few problems, the biggest being a large bout of exposition near the beginning, when Kung Fury is narrating his origin story. The absurdity of it sells it, but it still feels a little awkward and slow in comparison to everything else that’s going on. To be honest, I’m not sure half it is even needed, funny or not.
Kung Fury himself doesn’t have much of an arc, and what could be called character development is played purely for a final joke and nothing else. Given who he is and what this movie is though, it’s hardly a problem. This is the kind of movie where everything dumb that happens is done for a reason, be it a nod to an older movie or for the pure sake of comedy. That might not be an excuse for, say, a one-dimensional character, but I’m using it as one anyway.
Other than Kung Fury, the rest of the cast are hardly around, with most showing up at the end to participate in the final battle. I’d have liked to have spent more time with some of the characters, but given the movie’s short run time, I get why that didn’t happen. I can’t really picture Kung Fury working at an hour or even 45 minutes in length. Its quick pacing would have succumbed to action fatigue without down time, and it’s not a movie that can really handle down time well.
Kung Fury is the kind of movie we could only get thanks to the likes of the Internet and crowd funding. By logic, focus testing, and the almighty dollar, it should not exist, but thanks to the almost 18,000 backers, it does. I am happy for this, and you should be too. It’s great in the most subjective sense of the word, a wonderfully fun and stupid package all in one, and something I plan on going back to again and again.