Fear the Neon-Tinted fists of KUNG FURY!
The views expressed in this review do not necessarily reflect those of AtomicMoo.com or its staff, even though they should.
What comes to mind when you think of the 1980s? What images are conjured up at the mention of that decade? Big hair, the glow of neon, the sound of synths? The rise of computers? The power of the coin-op arcade? A time of supercars and super cartoons? The tropes of the decade’s film and television footprint?
Any, all, and more of these are correct. For many of us, the Nineteen-Eighties were ten years of popular culture that define who we still are today. It is without a doubt a decade worth remembering fondly (despite everything), and one which we are fortunate enough to be able to revisit in Kung Fury, Swedish director David Sandberg’s action/comedy romp that simultaneously satirizes and embraces the tropes that make the ‘80s so damn memorable.
In Kung Fury, Laser Unicorns Productions crafts the tale of a Miami cop who learns the secrets of an ancient, deadly form of martial arts. He vows to use his new found powers for good, which, in the ‘80s, meant single-handedly taking on legions of bad guys and beating the crap out of them, just like in your favourite pulp movies and TV shows from back in the day… Only way, way more rad.
Fighting criminal scum to a killer synth-heavy soundtrack in a neon-lit city is only the start of the adventure, as our ass-kicking hero takes it upon himself to travel back in time and defeat history’s greatest monster. None other than Adolf Hitler, who, as we all know, was the master of martial arts known as Kung Fürher.
If this sounds ridiculous to you, that’s entirely the point. Think of those classic ‘80s action movies, video games, and TV shows in which larger-than-life heroes fight evil by literally fighting evildoers. The good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve, even if that means a satisfyingly gory death. Kung Fury sticks to the ‘80s action movie tradition, and plenty of criminals are brought to justice with over-the-top martial arts action.
Dialogue, of course, is so cheesy that the lactose-intolerant might want to stay away. In true ‘80s fashion, one-liners are dispensed with the beat downs, and when the jokes are more stupid than funny, it is probably intentional. Mitch Murder and Lost Years’ soundtrack is stellar, period-accurate synth rock and MIDI drums. Kung Fury’s music is so ‘80s that the theme song is actually performed by David Hasselhoff.
On the subject of period accuracy, tremendous care was put into not only the art direction but effects that give the impression of watching a well-used VHS tape on a CRT monitor. Scan lines, dust on the film, and colour separation are just a few of the effects added that seal the deal. Simulated VCR tracking effects are even used as transitions. It is not simply a matter of the movie looking and sounding like it is set in the 1980s (costumes, music, boomboxes, arcades…), but the film is made to look like it shipped on a VHS tape out of the ‘80s, and played back on that decade’s hardware.
Despite the old look, Kung Fury is undoubtedly a modern film, with extensive greenscreen work and CGI. Much like Michael Bay, director David Sandberg spent years directing music videos and television commercials before making a brainless CGI action comedy. But Sandberg’s film has what the aforementioned Hollywood hacks’ doesn’t. Heart. Actual humour. Purpose. Use of CGI with an artistic goal. Kung Fury exists as a labor of love and a tribute to a beloved decade, and not as a forgettable big-budget commercial product. Make no mistake, though: I will gladly show Laser Unicorns my support by visiting the Kung Fury Official Online Store and buying the official Kung Fury: Street Rage video game. This film is exactly the sort of creative, heartfelt, pure-entertainment experience I would pay to see in a cinema.
Unfortunately, it is not without faults, the most glaring of which is the run time. Clocking in at only thirty minutes, Kung Fury is well-paced and does not outstay its welcome, but still does not feel long enough. It is possible that Laser Unicorns did not have the budget for a longer film, or possibly did not have the content. Despite the short runtime, some scenes drag on longer than they should, such as a fake commercial and a conversation between Nazi soldiers, neither of which feel quite funny enough. Furthermore, there is nowhere near enough closure, but that mean leave the door open for a sequel.
Another issue are dubbed voices. A Swedish production, some actors’ accents are noticeable, particularly computer Cyberwhiz Hackerman. Some characters have had their lines dubbed over. The mouth movements do not always line up with the spoken dialogue, possibly as a reference to the poorly-dubbed kung-fu movies of yesteryear, which makes the fact that they have been dubbed even more obvious. Again, this could be intentional.
Those unfamiliar with 1980s popular culture might find themselves confused by Kung Fury. This goes far beyond the fad of pixilated indie games with MIDI soundtracks. If you ever dropped quarters at an arcade, fiddled with the tracking dial of a VCR, or had a poster of a Lamborghini Countach on your bedroom wall, Laser Unicorns’ short film is decidedly for you. It might only be thirty minutes long, but they were the most enjoyable thirty minutes I’ve had watching a movie since– well, maybe since the ‘80s.
We’ve posted Kung Fury below or you can view it online on production studio Laser Unicorns’ Youtube channel.
Numbers is Atomic Moo’s designated Canadian who remembers the 1980s not as a decade but as a way of life. His opinions are facts.