Viking Night: Kung Fury
By Bruce Hall
November 17, 2015
It feels like cheating, reviewing a short film that barely clocks in at a half hour. You could make it through Kung Fury twice in the time it takes you to finish a load of laundry. And depending on your level of pop culture savvy, you may or may not consider the net experience worth more than getting your shorts clean. But that shouldn’t diminish what an important achievement this is. Kung Fury shares some similarities with Iron Sky, another crowdfunded sci-fi fantasy that also made the most of meager resources, and relied on a historically neutered version of Nazi Germany for comic relief.
The difference is that Kung Fury, at one third the run time and one tenth the cost, Kung Fury offers more bang for the buck, and isn’t nearly long enough to overreach its premise and wear out its welcome as thoroughly as Iron Sky does. It is the brainchild of Swedish writer/director David Sandberg, who apparently decided he was either going to make this silly half hour movie, or die trying.
Kung Fury is set in crime-ridden Miami circa 1985. At a production cost of well under a million dollars, the movie does a serviceable job of recreating the setting. This is accomplished through a combination of stock footage, setting most scenes at night, and using period video effects to obtain a grimy “shot on Betamax” look. Certain portions of the film almost have a found footage quality. It’s almost as though someone discovered Kung Fury on a battered video tape in an old steamer trunk on an episode of This Old House, and spliced it back together using period equipment on board a decrepit fishing trawler. It helps establish a suitably cheesy ambiance, covers up certain VFX deficiencies, and obviates the need for any sort of logical plot progression.
That’s a good thing, because if you spend too much time trying to follow the story, you’re in danger of causing yourself permanent psychological damage. Kung Fury is basically a series of tongue-in-cheek action set pieces, and everything that happens in the story is just a mechanism designed to move on to the next gag. All you really need to know is that Kung Fury is a cop, and he’s damn good at his job. He works alone, he doesn’t do things “by the book,” and his boss doesn’t understand what it’s like on the streets because he’s spent too much time sitting behind a desk. And you don’t have to be a cop to understand how hard it is to do your job when you can’t just kill people and blow things up whenever you want, am I right?
But it wasn’t always like this; once, Kung Fury (Sandberg) was a simple rookie beat cop who idolized his partner. One fateful night, while chasing a garishly dressed kung fu master through the back alleys of Miami (as one does), his partner is killed. Kung Fury is simultaneously struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra, because stupid Florida just can’t get that invasive species problem under control. For some reason, this makes him the Chosen One, the greatest Kung Fu master ever. He decides to use his new powers to fight crime, one gratuitous explosion at a time.