Kung Fu Elliot – Fantastic Fest 2014 Film Review


It should be noted that Kung Fu Elliot won the Fantastic Fest Award for Best Documentary Picture last night. As of this writing, I’ve not seen Creeping Garden, but I plan to fix that as soon as I can. I did see the Cannon documentary and Lost Souls, both of which were fascinating oral histories of specific behind the scenes moments in Hollywood history. Kung Fu Elliot was the standout and it is where my vote would have gone had I a voice in the Fantastic Fest Awards. Elliot “White Lightening” Scott hails from Canada. He has made a life out of shooting D-Grade action films on point and shoot cameras and selling the DVDs outside of video and record stores. His longtime girlfriend Linda bankrolls their odd life and hopes Elliot will get a job and buy her a ring. The film follows Elliot and Linda through the making of one of this movies.

Elliot wants to be the Chuck Norris of Canada. He touts his action star abilities and his moral fortitude as he writes, directs, edits, performs stunts, and choreographs each film. Elliot tells the camera over and over again that hard work and his fighting skills captivate anyone who watches his films.  We see clips that have the quality of vintage America’s Funniest Home Videos. The fights are less staged than mostly stumbled through. They have the potential to be late night movie awesomeness. Elliot believes they can be even more than that.

You will feel like you know everything about Elliot and his odds at success. You’ll ponder over his Asian medicine courses and insane overseas trip. At some point, you’ll start to wonder if he’s not quite the rube you think he is. Then the story will take a sharp left turn and shock you through to the final moments. The sexual deviousness under it all, the need for admiration Elliot feels, it’s all highly human and standard stuff, but then it’s not. At all.

The crew had great access to Elliot and Linda’s lives. Linda dislikes the attention and constantly reminds everyone of it. She complains about his laziness, and the camera catchers it all. As much as Elliot treats this as his chance at fame, Linda treats that as her chance for a supportive audience to side with her. When truths began to surface about both parties, it’s hard to understand how the camera crew was involved. It’s compelling drama, but I would love to have known how they got involved. There are points where it feels as if the directors are prodding the sleeping giant to create drama. It made me feel slightly voyeuristic, but I also believe Elliot wanted it all captured. The bigger and broader the drama, the more he feels like a star.

The best thing about the film is the unassuming nature. It’s the movie equivalent of Elliot’s life. For the first three quarters you’ll think you’re watching one movie. And then you’ll realize you’re watching something altogether more shocking. All of the parts add up to one amazing experience. The film is funny and sad, usually at the same time. It’s a startling look at the lengths to which one man will go to hold on to the image he has of how things should be. Check it out as soon as you get a chance.

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