Dojo Review: Kung Fu Elliot
(courtesy of Garage Doc Films)
Directors: Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau
starring Elliot Scott, Linda Lum, and Blake Zwicker
Plot: Having completed his first two films which includes THEY KILLED MY CAT, Elliot “White Lightning” Scott is committed to becoming the next Chuck Norris with his ultimate low-budget karate epic: BLOOD FIGHT. This surreal documentary captures two years in the lives of a passionate amateur filmmaker, his supportive girlfriend Linda, and their outrageous cast—all trying to realize their dreams of movie stardom. As Elliot retreats into his world of make-believe, Linda struggles to keep him grounded and patiently waits for him to propose. With everyone’s hopes pinned on Elliot, this comedic-drama unfolds into a shocking and complex examination of how we lie to ourselves to follow our dreams at any cost (synopsis courtesy of Garage Doc Films).
Review: Many fans of martial arts films seem to have similar fantasies: they simply want to emulate their on screen heroes. Some do this by enrolling in martial arts lessons, others by writing about martial arts/martial arts movies, and some others take it a step further and decide to become filmmakers and/or actors. Kung Fu Elliot is about a man that tries the latter approach. Directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau take the viewer into a man’s world where make believe and reality start to merge ( at least in Elliot’s mind). His partner Linda supports his efforts in the first half of the film; she does the camera work and editing of his movies and his friend Blake lends his acting talents. Elliot admires Chuck Norris and dreams of being Nova Scotia’s ( and all of Canada’s) next big star. The problem, Elliot’s case is that he lives too much in his dream world. He has convinced some people he is a Kickboxing champion and a “star.” The first half of the film goes to great lengths to show how determined Elliot is portraying this idea to others. We get some good footage of him selling DVD’s of his movies outside a video store and telling some customers that he has sold 10,000 copies worldwide. Linda tries to provide a stable, grounding force in his life by suggesting sensible things such as going to acupuncture school. This is where the viewer sees signs of some creepy things. In a well shot scene, Elliot is administering a massage to a young lady that seems to be,well, a little too hands on. As the film progresses we start to see and hear more of Elliot’s fantasy as well as his true reality. This is very evident when we witness Elliot visit China for study tour with his acupuncture school. Elliot tries to convince anyone especially Chinese women that he is a true movie star from Canada.
This is where the movie really begins to pick up and we get to see even more of the blurring of fantasy and reality. His room mates for the trip are interviewed and they question some of his behavior. It seems as if Elliot has more on his mind than a cultural exchange and study while in China and is even admonished by his acupuncture teacher regarding his activities. In one particularly funny ( in a sort of sad way) scene is Elliot’s encounter with a Shaolin monk who evaluates Elliot’s Karate. This is an excellent scene not only because of Elliot’s lack of kung fu but the monk’s expressions, his Chinese exchange with the acupuncture teacher along with his smirk when Elliot tells him he is a 7 time kickboxing champion.
When Elliot comes back to Canada after his China trip is when things hit the fan. Linda is tired of the lies, empty marriage promises, uncompleted projects, and Elliot’s other activities comes to light. Elliot threatens Linda’s neighbors, the camera man, and film crew as he gets caught lying about his whereabouts while Linda is away. Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau clearly show Elliot’s descent into a moment of madness where, sadly, his self-hype, lies, and delusions get the better of him.
Kung Fu Elliot is an intensely interesting documentary which draws the viewer attention and doesn’t let go until the abrupt end. Simultaneously it is a film about pursuing one’s passion as well as a cautionary tale. The directors really captured what happens when a dream morphs into an unhealthy fantasy and how it affects the lives of significant others, friends, and supporters. As a person who has been around people whose fantasies took over their reality I found this movie very familiar. As a martial arts practitioner for many years I have had acquaintances who have been just as delusional as Elliot regarding their own skills and accomplishments. Kung Fu Elliot brought back memories of listening to these people, trying to help them support their dreams, and seeing them be consumed by their own lies and misinformation. In my opinion, a good film can have an emotional impact and Kung Fu Elliot did for me. I found myself routing for Elliot during the first portion of the film and by the end shaking my head at the choices he made. I highly recommend viewing Kung Fu Elliot at the theater ( check the link below) or viewing it when it comes to VOD February 27. Kudos to directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau for an amazing trip inside a world where fantasy and reality collide with not so good results.
(images courtesy of Garage Doc Films)
Check out more about Kung Fu Elliot at the following links:
Official Website: http://www.kungfuelliot.com/
Kung Fu Elliot opens in select theaters today February 20 click here for a list of participating theaters.