Review: Kung Fury (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #803

Number of Views: Two
Release Date: May 28, 2015
Sub-Genre: Short Film
Country of Origin: Sweden
Budget: $600,000
Running Time: 31 minutes
Director: David Sandberg
Producers: Linus Andersson, Eleni Young
Screenplay: David Sandberg
Visual Effects: Cameron Scott
Cinematography: Linus Andersson, Mattias Andersson, Jonas Ernhill, Martin Gärdemalm, Anton Hjalmarsson, Henning Sandström
Score: Johan Bengtsson, Lost Years, Patrik Öberg
Editing: Nils Moström
Studios: Lampray, Laser Unicorns
Distributors: Netflix, Under The Milky Way, YouTube
Stars: David Sandberg, Jorma Taccone, Steven Chew, Leopold Nilsson, Andreas Cahling, Per-Henrik Arvidius, Erik Hörnqvist, Frank Sanderson, Eleni Young, Helene Ahlson, Yasmina Suhonen, Magnus Betnér, Björn Gustafsson, Eos Karlsson, David Hasselhoff

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Lost Years “West Side Lane”

[2] Mitch Murder “Power Move”

[3] David Hasselhoff “True Survivor”

Where would we be without the eighties? I don’t know about you but I reckon I’d be one below thoroughly depressed. Given that I was podded back in 1974, the swinging seventies had all but concluded by the time I could spell my name and, while I understand it was a rather glorious decade, much of its output was lost on me until far later. It was the eighties that welcomed me in with open arms, kept me constantly amused, and taught me the majority of my life lessons in one fell swoop.

Technology was hurtling on in leaps and bounds, fashions becoming increasingly outlandish, and most of my memories entail walking around with a perma-grin painted across my face. Then in the time it took the dreaded nineties to introduce themselves, it was all gone. However, it’s never easy keeping a good decade down and I had a sneaking suspicion we’d be seeing the eighties again some day.

Eventually shit travels full circle and this appears to play out every thirty years or so. Once we arrive at mid-life and get any crises out of the way, we find ourselves casting an eye back to our childhoods for inspiration. Using our rose-tinted spectacles and powers of selective memory, we tend to embrace the last known period where life was a bowl of glazed cherries and celebrate the living hell out of it. Where the eighties are concerned, one need not search too hard for inspiration as it was positively brimming with the stuff.

The fact that it’s such a dated timezone actually works in its favor as we receive a little shot in the arm each time we consider how far we’ve come since. Better yet, it’s not too difficult to nail that eighties vibe, while applying a lick of new-age varnish in the process. As a man veering ominously towards his mid-forties this very second, I get the warm and fuzzies every time the sweat bands and leg warmers come out for a dash of welcome retrospective.

One stellar example of nostalgic eighties goodness is Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell’s Turbo Kid from 2015. Set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 1997, you’d be forgiven for expecting a more forward facing adventure but there’s more than a flavor of the olde worlde about it with one L.A. Gear permanently planted in the decade that inspires it. What the RKSS Collective achieved was to strike the fine balance between old and new, without it ever once feeling borrowed or blue. Had heart is what it did.

Indeed, for every row of stickle bricks, there was a strip of accompanying fuzzy felt and, as a direct result, I now cherish this wondrous movie like the Etch-a-Sketch collecting mildew in my attic. There’s one thing I can tell you for damn sure – it won’t be thirty years before I dust this baby down for a reunion.

Wherever are my manners? Is it not rude to compliment the guests when there’s a blushing bride flashing her garter and cute cheek dimples? We’re here for some Kung Fury this day, are we not? My sincere apologies for snatching us away from the nuptials so unceremoniously and I pledge to make it up to you, one way or another, come the ultimate exchanging of vows. For now, I take you David Sandberg as my lawful wedded wife, for better or worse, richer or poorer, and ’til death do we part.

Just to be clear son, I ain’t fucking kissing you, eye-liner or no eye-liner. I will however be more than willing to orchestrate a wedding night hand-job (with woolen mitten naturally) – for you, my little sugar tits, have endeared yourself to this particular eighties whore-bag no end. And to think it all started with a Kickstarter campaign. So it does work after all then?

Indeed it bloody does as what Sandberg achieves here using the power of good old-fashioned crowdfunding is ridiculous in the very best way. Kung Fury began life as a teaser trailer in 2013, as the Swedish filmmaker traded shooting television commercials and music videos for making his name in the movies. Fast forward four short years and his affectionate 31-minute throwback to a not-so-forgotten era has amassed over 28 million views on YouTube alone, proving him very much astute in his risk-taking.

I’m not altogether certain how views and streams translate to hard profit in this ever-changing climate, but the fact that Kung Fury II: The Movie is currently slated for release in 2018 suggests the piggy bank has plumpened considerably thanks to the kind of retro-styling $600 million can afford. If this is a statement of intent from the young Swede, then it’s a zippy one-liner designed both to make you cringe and, in turn, pump your fist. For the record, I aired more towards the latter.

Sandberg himself plays hard-boiled Miami detective Kung Fury, a man with precious left to lose after his partner Dragon is sliced in half like a cantaloupe by a red ninja in the backstreets. To add antiseptic to injury, he is then struck down by lightning and bitten by a King Cobra in swift succession, although the upshot of this is that he is promptly transformed into “The Chosen One” and imbued with magical kung-fu powers.

Back at the station house, wouldn’t you know it, the police chief is downright furious and insists he be partnered with a rookie at once. Any of this sounding familiar yet? Then prepare for the curveball as said tenderfoot is a half-man/half-dinosaur by the name of Triceracop. Naturally our hero refuses to play ball, surrenders his badge, and sets off to take the law into his own hands.

This is where a faithful assistant comes in handy and, in Hackerman, he has the most powerful hacker of all time fighting his corner. Using the very best in cutting-edge technology (Nintendo Power Glove and what appears to be a Commodore 64), Hackerman has the ability to open a cross-dimensional rift and send Kung Fury back to Nazi Germany in the 1940s, where the tyrannical Adolf Hitler a.k.a. “Kung Führer” is planning to engage in a spot of global domination from behind his Gatling-Gun mounted podium.

Should our hardened cop fail to rid the world of Hitler’s heinous threat, then the future could be about to play out considerably differently. Alas, an unanticipated glitch in the system dials him back a century or ten too far, leaving him temporarily stranded in the Viking age of all places.

Forget any laser raptors roaming around like they own the place (which they kinda do, it has to be said), it’s the large-chested automatic-wielding Amazonians who cannot help but catch the eye here. Enter Barbarianna, a busty Viking beauty who sits atop a giant wolf wielding a Minigun, and Katana, another busty Viking beauty who straddles a chatty T-Rex and brandishes an Uzi.

If this isn’t sufficient, then how about the Norse god of thunder himself, Thor, whose hefty hammer blow alone can realign the timelines and pack our future cop off to his intended destination. I shit you not, I ain’t even winding up you up here. In the world of Kung Fury, absolutely anything can happen, and sees no reason not to do precisely that. Think Schindler’s List by way of every bad eighties cop movie and Eastern kung-fu flick ever birthed and you’re in the right concentration camp.

Sandberg pads his passion project out with a plethora of well-worn genre tropes and crams as much nostalgia as he feasibly can into his slender duration. From 24-watt ghetto blasters, to misguided mullets and portable cell phones the size of scuds, it’s all here and in all its 8-bit glory. He even goes as far as recruiting the one and only David Hasselhoff as Hoff 9000, the artificially intelligent in-car auto-pilot who will not be hassled, under any circumstances.

From stem to stern, it positively oozes eighties ephemera, and anyone well-versed with their pop culture trivia should find countless playful references packed away within its innards to delight in. I challenge any self-respecting retro head not to glean a healthy bout of enjoyment from Kung Fury, although 31 minutes feels just about right to me as Sandberg’s film is beginning to outstay its welcome by the time the credits roll (to the rousing croons of Hasselhoff no less).

It remains to be seen whether this would translate to a full-length feature and there would need to be some changes to the format in order for Sandberg to pull this almighty feat off with dignity still intact. That said, even if it did struggle to make the transition, we’ll always have Miami right? Which brings us conveniently back to my solemn oath to atone for my earlier wedding day jitters. Try this on for size – press the link below and watch the entire thing… FOR FREE! I have only one meager request and it’s that you be kind and rewind. Nah, just fucking with you. Whaddya think this is… the eighties?

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Read Turbo Kid Appraisal
Read Fist of Jesus Appraisal
Read Treevenge Appraisal
Read Hobo With a Shotgun Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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