By Kevin Woodley (@kev_woodley)
An overblown 80’s tribute could have gone terribly. Kung Fury is anything but, in fact, it’s so far ahead of the rest that my head might explode – 80’s style.
The film’s tagline tells you to get ready for some Nazi, Dinosaurs, and Viking mash-up. To everybody that respects film that should be a big red warning sign. A stop sign. Stop what you’re doing. That sounds like a terrible idea. I don’t want to waste my time watching this. But then the film opened with a two second snap-shot of the unforgettable, eye-popping opening to Blade Runner, then an arcade machine transformed into a robot and started head-popping, then there was this car and then guns and explosions and… what followed was thirty minutes of sheer joy. If you pay tribute to a golden era with love and a creative head, then there will be glory. This is Kung Fury. It should have been terrible, in other hands it might have been. It wasn’t. As the titular character himself would probably say: ‘It’s the best damn indie film ever made.’
Technically speaking, I am not from the 80’s, but I usually dismiss that. I know this generation better than my own, and for its entire thirty-one minute run-time the grin on my silly face never waned. I should mention that like the film and this review is slightly overblown because right now I’m intoxicated with 80’s pop culture. I watched Kung Fury on the back of another sublime 80’s tribute Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which if you love the 80’s you should absolutely read – after watching Kung Fury, of course. Like Ready Player One, Kung Fury is a nerd’s dream, but really, anybody who appreciates ridiculous tributes done well should enjoy this. If you’ve ever watched Big trouble in Little China, Highlander, Miami Vice (I could go on) or spent coins in an arcade you’ll feel that wave of nostalgia hit with maximum impact.
The film is set mostly in a neon-lit night-life and it really looks the part. It exceeds effortlessly in drawing you into the electronic arcade world David Sandberg and Co. have created – before throwing you into the Viking Age and Nazi Germany. Are you Sold yet? You should be. Kung Fury is a thirty minute blast through time. It’s not difficult to picture this becoming something feature-length in the future and I think there’s a definite slot for it. I haven’t even talked about the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat mashup phase, which comes in around two-thirds of the way into the film, and is by all accounts magic. The special effects are also handled with care, equal parts naff and excellent. This is where the film surprised me. You’d be right going into Kung Fury thinking the special effects will be a draw back and sticking point and then you’d be wrong, very quickly. It’s green screen galore, but it’s done well and everything on-screen is in sync with the film’s vision. Even when the effects were supposed to be lame it was all in the spirit of the film – and it’s this collective 80’s energy that carries the film to a level that caught me off guard. Did I mention it has a retro synth soundtrack? (Thank you John Carpenter.) And who doesn’t want that?
Director, writer and star, David Sandberg, should gain all the plaudits. A truly brilliant effort. The lines, cheesy and electric, are all dispatched with aplomb. All the pauses in the right places. All the frowns and eyebrows raising when they should. All the cheese.
If there’s a problem with the film then it’s likely to be an audience problem. If you’re on board for the crazy ride then you’ll have fun, but if you can’t escape the shackles of maturity you might struggle to buy into this full-blown, wonderful nonsense. That’s not saying that everybody has to like it, but if 80’s action films aren’t your thing, all the winks and nods might get lost in the silly chaos.
Kung Fury is chock full of nods to 80’s entertainment and over-the top martial arts films of the past. I won’t spoil them all, however I shall give it a ‘Hasselhoff approved’ thumbs up. Good job!