Furious (1984)

Jodorowsky. Buñuel. Lynch. “All psychomagical hypnotist meditators and coffee drinkers?” you probably guess. Yes, but not what I was thinking! They’re filmmakers responsible for some of the most transgressive surrealist works in cinema history. Based on his work in 1984’s FURIOUS, Tim Everitt may have had an eye on adding his name to this list. His debut feature film (co-directed by Tom Sartori) lacks the epistemological heft of HOLY MOUNTAIN or the fever-dream duality of MULHOLLAND DRIVE, but make no mistake: Everitt was not afraid to feed your head with cinema-psycho-babble. He’ll give you five straight minutes of old women eating chicken while a man in a kabuki mask performs magic tricks for a baby and a shirtless man twirls swords around in the back of a dimly-lit restaurant. And you’ll like it.

After a warrior named Kim (Arlene Montano) is chased into the mountains by white dudes in Mongol warrior garb making melodic nature calls lifted from Doug McKenzie, a brief skirmish leads to tragedy. The hooligans seek a powerful tusk (a saber-tooth with GPS) that may or may not point the way to the so-called Astral Plane, and Kim was simply caught holding it at the wrong time. To her credit, Kim doesn’t make the theft easy for them, fighting off one fighter with a staff and hitting another in the upper-buttock area with his own throwing star. Pretty demoralizing, though not as bad as actually dying.

Kim’s martial artist brother, Simon (Simon Rhee), lives in an isolated woodland cabin and teaches martial arts to an eager group of adolescents. He has a dog and overall, life is good. No complaints, really. When he learns of his sister’s demise, everything goes to hell. After letting his aggression out on an outdoor heavy bag in front of his confused students, he storms off to seek guidance from his master, Chan (Phillip Rhee).

The older, wiser Chan lives and works in an office building and oversees a dojo, but spends most of his time meditating while floating three feet off the ground. On occasion, he’ll learn a new sleight-of-hand magic trick from his right-hand warlock, Mika (Mika Elkan). Noting his protege’s grief, he gifts Simon with a mysterious pendant and some philosophical chit-chat before sending him off on a wild goose chase for spiritual enlightenment. This is odd, because the office building is filled with chickens, not gooses. Or is it geese? You following so far?

Now, take everything I just told you about the plot of this film and throw it in the garbage along with the leftover macaroni-and-cheese you forgot to refrigerate overnight. Some of this stuff definitely happened, but it’s a patchwork story interspersed with fight scenes and in-camera effects. Watch, rinse, and repeat, because you’ll arguably benefit from multiple viewings and come up with all sorts of theories about what’s actually happening. That said, anyone approaching this film and hoping for modern, inventive taekwondo action will probably come away underwhelmed. The fight scenes are a little loose and under-rehearsed, no doubt a consequence of a micro-budget and a rushed shooting schedule. Where the fights really succeed is in their energy, frequency, and silliness. Enemies throw cardboard boxes from rooftops, restaurant combatants throw bowls of rice at each other, and fireballs morph into chickens mid-flight. Who cares if you don’t get crisp choreography with intricate combinations and epic build-up? This has Simon Rhee fighting a goddamn papier-mâché dragon with a skeleton clenched in its teeth! Moments later, the skeleton is on fire! This is wacky, low-budget independent action-fantasy filmmaking at its finest.

FURIOUS is a slippery fish to discuss by most customary criteria, given its disjointed story and lack of dialogue. For fans of the genre who are tired of needlessly talky movies filled with exposition, you’re in for a treat. The first line of dialogue — “All right…” — comes around the 12-minute mark. Now, the dialogue may not be as sparse as say, WALL-E or ALL IS LOST, but even for a 73-minute film, there’s not a whole lot of conversation here to move the plot forward. The filmmakers instead rely on surreal visuals with long stretches of silence to build the story’s framework, and leave the audience to fill in the rest. Somehow, for this type of film, it works more often than not.

This film is significant for a lot of reasons — chickens, a talking pig in a karate gi, a flaming skeleton — but it also marked the film debut of Loren Avedon. As a student of Jun Chong and Phillip Rhee, he was one among many advanced students who made an appearance as a henchman — DOUBLE IMPACT’s spur-heeled villain, Peter Malota, also appears — but you’d be hard pressed to pick him out given the generic costumes and grainy look of the film. Knockoff Devo henchman? Restaurant patron? Chicken handler? Who knows?

This was not a film where much footage was left on the cutting room floor and you get the feeling that the filmmakers needed to use or re-purpose everything they captured on camera. Filmed in less than a week’s time, FURIOUS features visual non-sequiturs aplenty, a limited inventory of ridiculous props, and a wonderfully absurd plot. There are some highly unconventional ideas at play here and this is likely to be the most original (if not the most technically adept) martial arts b-movie you’ll see this or any year. Highly recommended.

This content originally appeared on Fist of B-List

2 comments

  1. I have you to blame/thank for bringing FURIOUS to my attention; I eventually did watch the movie, as the final film of a backyard movie night I threw with some friends. I feel kinda bad about it, because my buddies had no idea what we are about to watch, while I had *some* warning based on your review. But we still had fun and we all walked away pretty dazed by the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will gladly take credit and blame. FURIOUS is another one that I really can’t believe actually saw the light of day on a modern format all these years later.

      If your pals got through those 70 minutes of flaming chickens & skeletons, random pigs, magic tricks, and martial arts — with the assistance of dank flower and booze, or not — I think you might need to lovingly stitch together some merit badges and award them publicly at a post-COVID gathering.

      Liked by 1 person

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