Skip to main content

The post in which I have an ambivalent opinion of "Kung Fury."

During a bad movie marathon I was hosting to share of some of my favorite Hipster Holy Grail entries so far (If Footmen Tire You, The Barbarians, and Spookies, in case you're curious), one of my guests suggested we watch Kung Fury.  I'd had it in my Netflix queue for awhile and I'm not such a dick that I'd openly refuse, so we put it on.

Watching it with a crowd is definitely the best way to go should you decide to watch.  But I don't think a bad movie marathon is the place for it, in retrospect.  Kung Fury is not a bad movie.  It's an overextended comedy sketch that parodies bad movie elements, and in the context of other genuinely bad movies that are fun to watch, it comes across as hollow.

That being said, Kung Fury is the type of movie that most Fake Bad Movies wish they were.  It goes for over-the-top moments instead of logic and continuity, but because it actually has some talent and effort behind it, it mostly succeeds at what it's trying to accomplish.  This is basically why I have the category "Not Actually Bad Movie" in my bullshit rating system. It's a movie that set out to be good in terms of technical qualities or action / comedy beats, and because it doesn't fail, it is not actually a bad movie.  Similar movies would be things like Face/Off and Con Air, which are dumb as hell and never tried to be anything else.  They work for what they are and I respect that.

(Contrast these with "Fake Bad Movies" which set out to be shitty, but through a total lack of effort or sincerity just end up being actually shitty in as irritating and cynical a way as possible.)

And now here's where I start to act like an asshole and possibly a snob.

The problem I have with Kung Fury is that it has two ambitious goals, but it conflates them and ends up doing one really well while shitting the bed at the other.  It wants to be a campy, over-the-top action comedy that gets more and more ridiculous as it goes along.  It mostly succeeds there, despite overdoing it a little bit too much.  Its second goal is to be a throwback to '80s action movies, and that's where it's a miserable failure.

It's so bad at being an homage that I started to get a little bit annoyed with it.  Yeah, dumb movies from yesteryear would insert all kinds of nonsense, but they had their limits.  No '80s action movie was about ninjas and Nazis and robots and Thor and time travel.

More importantly, the overall look and feel of the movie is completely off.  It's easy to compare Kung Fury to Black Dynamite, another effort to recreate campy movies from the past.  But the two are universes apart.  Kung Fury makes copious use of CGI and modern special effects technology and looks exactly like a video somebody made for the Internet, just with an occasional filter added over top of it to "age" it a bit.  Black Dynamite, on the other hand, was filmed with actual old film stock and painstakingly crafted using primarily the techniques and technology available to a 1970s filmmaker.  Everything that is in Black Dynamite could have (and probably was, to some extent) made forty years ago.

I'm conflicted about Kung Fury.  When it tries to be over-the-top funny, it succeeds.  Consider a scene in which a character picks up a phone and shoots into the receiver, and then the bullets fly out on the other end of the line.  That's hilarious.  Or when an evil robot stops in the middle of its rampage to pick up a dog and give it the finger.  That's also funny.  Those little touches are the best part, and the sort of comic sensibility that makes Stephen Chow amazing.  But when it tries to be funny through references to cliches or other similarly memetic appeal, it gets tiresome.  This is where it thought it was being clever and just ended up losing sight of a more cohesive goal.

Watching Kung Fury is like having a conversation about Cannon Films with somebody who knows a ton about them, but then every thirty seconds somebody interrupts to show you a lolcat.  It would be an enriching evening if that asshole stopped trying so hard to be funny.

My Rating: 3 / 5 (Like 2/3 a Not A Bad Movie, with 1/3 a Fake Bad Movie thrown in)