Furious (1984)

PLOT: A grieving martial artist does battle with a group of wizards and new-wave music enthusiasts for control of the universe. All participants are paid in delicious fried chicken for their efforts.

Directors: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Writers: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori
Cast: Simon Rhee, Philip Rhee, Arlene Montano, Howard Jackson, Mika Elkan, Loren Avedon, Peter Malota

Jodorowsky. Buñuel. Lynch. “All psychomagical hypnotist meditators and coffee drinkers?” you ask. Close, but no! 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 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 the weirdly random thunder. 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 (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 navigational tusk (think of 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 lower-lumbar / upper-ass 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, teaches martial arts to an eager group of adolescents, and even has a dog. All in all, life is good. When he learns of his sister’s demise, everything goes to hell. He immediately beats the shit out of an outdoor heavy bag in front of his confused students and then 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 or learning new sleight-of-hand magic tricks from his right-hand dude, Mika (Elkan). Noting his protege’s grief, he gifts him with a mysterious pendant and some philosophical claptrap before sending him off on a wild goose chase for spiritual enlightenment. This is odd, because the office building is filled with chickens. You following so far?

Good, I’m glad that’s out of the way. 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 a few viewings and come up with all sorts of theories. That said, anyone approaching this film and hoping for modern-day, inventive TKD action will come away disappointed. The fight scenes, while good for a 1984 American movie, seem a little loose and under-rehearsed, no doubt a consequence of a micro-budget and rushed shooting schedule. Where the fights succeed is in their energy, frequency, and pure silliness. Enemies throw cardboard boxes from rooftops, restaurant combatants throw bowls of rice at each other, and fireballs turn 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.

Last summer, I was a guest on the GGTMC podcast where we reviewed this film, and while we had a ball discussing the zany elements of Furious, we found it was a slippery movie to discuss 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, Castaway 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. Everitt instead uses a lot of surreal visuals with uncomfortably long stretches of silence to build the story’s framework, and leaves the audience to fill in the rest. Somehow, for this type of film, it works more often than not.

Furious is significant for a lot of reasons -- chickens, talking pigs, 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. In my correspondence with Loren, he himself couldn’t recall the specific scene in which he appeared. (He would go on to have a similarly fleeting appearance in L.A. Streetfighters, but was at least identifiable). Here, I had no clue though. 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 bears a very “kitchen-sink” feel informed by visual non-sequiturs, 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 year. Highly recommended.

Near-impossible to find in its distributed physical form (VHS). A previously available VHS rip was yanked from YouTube based on a copyright claim from the director himself. In isolation, this guarantees almost nothing, but I’m hopeful that this means Everitt was reasserting control over his intellectual property for a proper home video release.

The fine folks at Leomark Studios released a Collector's Edition DVD on July 21, 2015. The release is now available for pre-order, so make sure you support this film!

6 / 7

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