“Yeah. That’s my bicep.”
After earning three times its goal on Kickstarter, the thirty-minute short Kung Fury went into production in hopes of melting minds with Heavy Metal synth ballads and gratuitous gore like only the 80s could provide. The brainchild of Swedish commercial and music video director David Sandberg, this opus to over-the-top cheesy action excess proves a brilliantly orchestrated hybrid of satirical parody and uproarious homage. Because just when you think it’s merely lambasting every single stereotype you can fathom from the overwrought stoic emotion of buddy cop flicks to the wild scale of fantasy adventures, a moment will arrive that blows your mind at its ability to accomplish 80s flavor better than anything preserved within your old VHS collection under an inch of dust on your basement shelf.
The aesthetic cultivated by Sandberg and his team is the perfect filter with which to camouflage the blemishes inherent to budget limitations weighed against its epic scope. So much was completed on green screen with post-production composite work that the two-dimensional layering of “live” actors is blatantly superimposed above flat, desaturated projections while extras are spliced in to join both with weird overlapping that doesn’t quite match-up. And despite the blurring of focus, aged softening of screen clarity, and addition of artifacts and videocassette tracking failing to hide everything, their distraction is cool enough to forgive any unavoidable artifacts as more intentional bits of visual flair. After all, the whole project’s an exercise in visual exhilaration. So you have to wonder if it’s purposefully unpolished for added effect.
Any fan of B-movie classics chock full of severe one-liners and ultraviolent carnage will love the plot centering on a Miami-Dade police officer (Sandberg) who’s inexplicably struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra seconds after his partner is killed. This volatile combination mutates his cells to become the “Chosen One”—a master of extreme Kung Fu aptly coined Kung Fury. An expert as soon as he opens his eyes post transformation, he becomes a hero to the city as a one-man wrecking crew eradicating criminal filth. As far from by-the-books as possible to his Chief’s (Per-Henrik Arvidius) chagrin, Kung Fury goes all-out for justice once the heat turns up. So when Adolf Hitler (Jorma Taccone) appears to destroy the entire precinct by impossible means, the Chosen One takes it upon himself to put the Fuhrer down.
Enlisting the help of Hackerman (Leopold Nilsson) to code him back to Nazi Germany via a Nintendo Powerglove and vintage computer hardware, Kung Fury’s path crosses that of Thor (Andreas Cahling), laserraptors, and a hoard of gasmask-toting Third Reich for a physically badass videogame sidescrolling sequence that will have you mashing buttons on imaginary controllers out of sheer habit. Add the half man/half dinosaur character design of Triceracop (Erik Hörnqvist), Barbarianna (Eleni Young) riding a giant wolf, and Vikingess Katana (Helene Ahlson) and you have an acid trip-fueled romp leaving dismembered bodies in its wake. The opening scene showcasing three punks vaulting a cop car airborne with a skateboard and shooting it to the point of explosion sets the tone.
Sandberg is wonderfully stiff and Taccone absurdly broad in his rendition of a martial arts loving dictator with the skill of pointing his finger so others can fight for him. The former plays it deadpan to hilarious effect and the latter straight towards shameless parody. Both juxtapose perfectly with the 8-bit meets comic book lens shrouding everything in a heightened state of nostalgia for an expertly measured duration ensuring the joke never wears out. There was a Kickstarter stretch goal to raise a million and rework the script into a feature length film—something I fear would have been too much of a good thing. As a half hour short, however, it is truly brilliant. Include the four-minute video of David Hasselhoff singing theme song “True Survivor” and it becomes legendary.
Watch it for yourself here.