KUNG FURY: A Divisive Throwback [Two Cents]

by Austin Vashaw

Two Cents

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Do you like kung fu? Lasers? Dinosaurs? Video games? The answer to these questions, is “yes”. This week we’re doing something a little different and checking out the new neon-tinged, 80’s-action-inspired short film Kung Fury, which delivers all the aforementioned items — and more! Developed using crowdfunding and released online for free, Kung Fury is an unusual sort of film.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

As you are probably aware, the legendary Christopher Lee has passed away. Speaking personally, I’m tremendously sad to see him go, yet also very glad that he lived such a rich, full life. I imagine many of you feel the same way. This week we want to honor that life by sharing in one of his greatest films — and his own personal favorite — together. Please join us in watching the original classic, The Wicker Man (1973). It’s not on Netflix, but it’s available to rent in the usual places spaces including Amazon. We’re not specifying any version of the film, though I believe the new “Final Cut” is the closest to the director’s vision, and probably the best and most desirable one to enjoy.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

The Team

Ed:Okay, God help me… I do kind of like this stuff. Nostalgia can be a tricky beast that leads the charge for a total bankruptcy of creativity. But… at the same time… when it is nostalgia for the stuff that I personally love, it becomes much more subjective. Kung Fury has the benefit of being only a half hour long, making it the perfect length to introduce characters such as Triceracop, Laser Raptor, kung fu Hitler, and the star/chosen one/kung fu superhero [who was struck by lightening and bitten by a cobra] Kung Fury, without ever dragging or overstaying its welcome. There are plenty of mile a minute jokes that land with a thud, but probably twice as many clever chuckles throughout. Kung Fury reminds me most of films like Manborg (which I loved) and Iron Sky (which was the worst case scenario of this type of winking homage to ridiculousness). The biggest highlight was the 2D fighting game sequence with Kung Fury going Mortal Kombat on waves of Nazis. That and that one time Hitler is shooting a gun through a phone and somehow killing cops on the other end of the line… (@Ed_Travis)

James:Now I grew up in the 80s, but even I found Kung Fury’s kitchen-sink-throwing mentality a little bludgeoning. Whether you class it as homage or spoof, David Sandberg’s Kickstarted short still feels like an over-familiar joke stretched to almost breaking point. Riffing on nearly every 80s cliché you can think of: glitchy VHS, 8-bit video games, mullets, cheesy synth scores, Miami (spiritual home of the 80s), mismatched buddy movies, massive mobile phones, Lamborghinis, the Hoff, stilted acting/dialogue, chop-socky flicks; Kung Fury is more content to say “Hey look, it’s the 80s, isn’t that funny?” rather than do something more sophisticated satirically (and narratively) speaking.

Then again, perhaps that’s the point. Subtle it ain’t and neither were the 80s. Despite its Kickstarter limitations, Kung Fury is actually quite well made. Sandberg channels his inner Dudikoff with aplomb, and there is the occasional well-observed satirical barb and amusing one-liner. Plus, any film which combines dinosaurs, time-travel, a Kung Fu Hitler and a Thor obsessed with his own biceps can’t be all bad. There’s worse things you could spend half an hour doing. Watching a misguided albeit impressively mounted Youtube short for free isn’t one of them. But Danger 5 did it better. (@jconthagrid)

Justin:“No, this is an Aryan mustache. Yours looks like pubes from a dog hooker. A hooker dog.”

Is Kung Fury ridiculous? Indeed. Does it have an actual plot? Not so much. But it’s insanely fast paced, fun as hell, and involves laser raptors… so what’s not to enjoy about this film?

If I must complain, I will note the moment where my suspension of disbelief was broken. A triceratops cop (Triceratop)… Thor’s rippling pecs… hacking through time… none of these are an issue for me. However, the film takes place in 1985 and features a Nintendo Power Glove. The Power Glove did not hit the market until 1989. How can I overlook such an egregious error? The folks over at Laser Unicorn seriously need to get it together.

Power Glove errors aside, this is the most fun half hour with my clothes on that I’ve had in a long time. It’s sheer ridiculousness, but it’s clever (sometimes cleverly unclever) and delivers exactly what anyone who watched the Hasselhoff music video/teaser trailer should have expected. Big explosions, robotic middle fingers, and street surfing on the backs of Nazis, all I can really say to these filmmakers is “Tank you.” (@thepaintedman)

Brendan:I was bored after five minutes. I’m sure Kung Fury will have ardent fans, not least of all the people who actually bankrolled the thing. And there’s certainly plenty of clever lines and inventive gags, so it’s not like this is some reprehensible thing. But I am just so, so done with 80s kids making snarky remixes of the shit they liked when they were 12. Kung Fury’s “Can you believe how dumb and bad this is?” attitude cuts off its ability to even be a fun bit of zippy goofiness. Whereas something like Buckaroo Banzai or Big Trouble in Little China seem positively drunk on the sheer glee of invention, Kung Fury strikes a pose of eye-rolling condescension that really started to annoy me after a certain point.

If you want to see a movie that does what Kung Fury aims for, but better, give Joseph Kahn’s sadly underseen Detention a watch. That’s a movie that throws all of modern culture into a blender and produces something mean-spirited and pointed, with something to say besides “Ha ha, Hitler, right you guys?” We all deserve better than that. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin:I definitely enjoyed this neon-colored homage to 80s action. While on the nose with its overt pastiche, I was bowled over by the attention to detail and never felt, as some did, that the effort was insincere. Some of the jokes don’t land, but the ones that do are not only funny but sometimes quite clever. Hitler (Kung Führer)’s mannerisms cracked me up. And like Ed, I was enamored with the fight sequence that riffed Mortal Kombat. It was just so well done.

My primary complaint would be the use of CGI which is out of place, even in a film this ardently anachronistic. I understand of course that most of this is basically a cartoon but the one that really stood out to me was Triceracops, who really should have been accomplished practically with a rubber mask or something. But overall, I found this totally enjoyable and would look forward to seeing the further adventures suggested by the open ending. (@VforVashaw)

Our Guests

Matthew McCracken:What is Kung Fury? This is the question I asked myself minutes into watching it — and truth be told I still don’t really know. I don’t know because I’m not well versed in eighties side-scrolling arcade games, contrived police dramas, and bad to brilliant kung fu movies new and old (I’m here thinking Kung Fu Hustle). Despite all this I do know that I loved it — unreservedly.

Assuming the above are inspirations to the work of near genius that Kung Fury may just be, then it can probably be said that it elevates its sources as much as it parodies, exaggerates, or otherwise riffs around them. The result is, in the end, a short film of uncomplicated — and quite direct — simplicity and joy.

In fact, directness is the key here, and I guess that’s why I truly loved the use of time travel, which I can only imagine was used as a device for the immediate, almost excessive, hilarity found in saying the words “Kung Führer”.

Kung Fury is really all about the immediate: the immediate joy, fun, and gratuitousness. I’ve rarely been brought so quickly to laughter. Beyond what receives homage, Kung Fury succeeds in its spectacular, uncomplicated directness. (@mattmccrac)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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