Kung Fury is a Swedish short film (with a runtime of about 30 minutes) written, directed by, and starring David Sandberg. At times, this martial arts action comedy feels more like an episode from some bizarre Adult Swim show, but it is nothing if not entertaining. The “story” follows Kung Fury, an ex-cop who, immediately following the death of his partner, is struck by lightning/bitten by a cobra, causing him to transform into the ultimate Kung Fu master. He chooses to use his new abilities for good, fighting crime in 1980s Miami. When Adolph Hitler, who, as it turns out, was also a martial arts enthusiast and hell-bent on stealing Kung Fury’s powers, shows up via a time machine, Kung Fury sets about “hacking” his way back in time to Nazi Germany so that he can take out Hitler once and for all. However, when he “hacks” his way into the past, he overshoots by a few hundred years and ends up in the Viking Age, where he must enlist the help of two buxom Viking women and even Thor himself to take out the “Kung Fuhrer.”
Much in the same way that Black Dynamite parodied 1970’s Blaxploitation films, Kung Fury spoofs 80’s action/kung fu B-movies, and even old school fighting games, with ridiculous, over-the-top martial arts brawls, cheesy one-liners and special effects, poorly synched dialogue, clumsily edited action sequences, and even a few grainy transition cuts, as if it is being viewed on an old VHS tape. None of it really makes much sense, and it’s not supposed to. Usually when someone goes to a movie, they are expected to suspend their disbelief to engage in stories about larger-than-life characters or fantastic scenarios, but Kung Fury flips that expectation on its head. It was never the intention of the filmmakers for audiences to take it seriously; from the way it is filmed (most of the shots are clearly done using green screen), to the completely absurd situations (Hitler fires his gun at a mobile phone, only to have the bullets shoot out of the receiver on the other end of the line), the audience is expected to continuously roll their eyes.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes these kinds of low-budget passion projects so enjoyable, but, much in the same vein as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, one cannot help but love the incredible work that went into making something so unique. It is readily evident that David Sandberg worked tooth-and-nail to create Kung Fury, and, despite how chaotic and ludicrous the entire thing is, it’s actually kind of endearing to watch. Knowing that thousands donated money and hundreds pitched in (probably pro bono) to help Sandberg bring his surreal vision to life is inspiring in and of itself.
While Kung Fury is not for everyone (or even most people), it is a truly great film for its time. David Sandberg financed the film via Kickstarter, collecting over $630,000 to produce it (falling short of the $1 million needed to make it a feature-length film), and it is exactly the kind of film you would expect the Internet to produce. And, given the small budget and insanity of the entire endeavor, it is an incredibly satisfying film to watch. It’s funny, self-referential, nostalgic, and so incredibly bizarre that one can’t help but enjoy the ride.
Rating: ★★★½ out of 5
Kung Fury is currently streaming on Netflix.