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[Fantastic Fest Review]…Kung Fu Elliot

KUNG FU ELLIOT_FF2014Genre films are wacky, weird, and wild, and there’s no shortage of them anywhere – film festivals, the Internet, even home movies. But deep down, a good number of these filmmakers probably dream of their film being a big Hollywood production. That’s certainly the case with the titular Elliot anyway. There are numerous films, genre or not, that feature an unlikely hero, or an underdog challenged with a dare-to-be-great experience. Really, you want the best or them, and at first glance, Kung Fu Elliot seems like that kind of film – it’s like the martial arts version of Napoleon Dynamite. Or the making of the film anyway.

Elliot “White Lightning” Scott is a dreamer, but he’s also miserable, and a little deranged. Yet, he’s got a goal and he’s moving toward it. All that’s missing is money…and talent…and a reality check. In an attempt to become Canada’s “first action star”, he’s devoted his life to finishing his horrible looking movie Blood Fight. This plays like the behind the scenes of something like Miami Connection (an equally horrible film that actually did get finished). Along the way however, puffery and self-mythology abound and morph in this crazy, but true, tale.

“White Lightning” is unknowingly participating in making this a parody when scenes with effects are nothing better than fireworks and materials brought at a local hobby shop. Not knocking somebody with ambition, and/or a limited budget, but Elliot is so brazen he pokes holes in his own credibility and constantly takes the wind out of his own sails. He makes such poor decisions, and so it’s a painful doc to watch just because it’s borderline pathetic. Up until the half way mark, there’s almost a collective audience decision to enact the mercy rule.

But while laughing at people who actually believe in what they are doing, or have to, you constantly ask yourself “do these people know they’re never gonna get there?“. Maybe telling lies to themselves is part of the “underdog” magic that helps then (and us) suffer through dirt cheap pursuits to make a movie. After all, an audience who sticks with a film despite its defects is how cult classics are born right? But then the doc takes a turn and offers some dark surprises. You wouldn’t think Fantastic Fest would have a film like this if it wasn’t going anywhere right?

What this doc lacks is commentary from the MST3K crew because Elliot, even when unprovoked, says some of the dumbest things. All that Elliott, both as an “actor”, and an accomplished martial artist (so he says), wants is for people to enjoy his film(s). He foresees groups of guys watching him kick ass on a Saturday evening. But in the same scene, almost giddy with power of being on camera, he expects that girls would do the same, only they might marvel at his shirtless figure.

He’s a big dreamer. But apparently, he’s also a big liar. That’s where things move well past pathetic. The doc becomes entirely weird as delusions of fame appear to be over taking Elliot. It’s tough to kick somebody when they’re down, but Elliot, through fault of his own, is just spinning his wheels and trying to go uphill. He’s also making enemies everywhere he goes. The doc is kind of a waste of time, and you even feel bad for saying anything bad about the movie, but really, he seals his own fate. Kung Fu Elliot has an ending you really won’t see coming, but the payoff is not worth the time invested. Still, it’s a bit wild to see how someone so unremarkable could have turned, not just 180 degrees, but into a whirlwind of deceit. That, if nothing else, is kind of fantastic.

QuadCard - Kung Fu Elliot