2017’s New York Asian Film Festival runs June 30th through July 16th.
The phrase “it’s not for everyone” gets tossed around a lot in regard to movies, particularly ones that don’t fit into a traditional box, but no film is for everyone. Graphically violent movies with disjointed narratives might appeal only to a tiny audience, but there are plenty of people who don’t like generic studio drivel either.
That said… Kfc is not for everyone.
“This is a purely fictional movie,” says the opening text before repeating itself three more times in varying ways — this never happened, these aren’t real people, this will never happen — and by the time the end credits roll a mere sixty minutes later you’ll be desperately hoping that disclaimer’s true.
An overweight man rambles about mixing Coke and Pepsi drinks before tearing a can in half and stabbing its jagged edges into someone’s neck just moments before he himself is hit by a car and bludgeoned to death. Adults fight with guns and machetes while kids scrap with razors and rocks. A woman is hung upside down while her teeth are pulled and cigarettes are put out on her cheek. A pair of ambulance attendants create their own “accident” victims before sexually assaulting them and eating bits of their flesh.
What seems at first glance to be random acts of violence and perversion are instead an interconnected series of events and characters telling a very specific story. Writer/director Le Binh Giang‘s feature debut is an increasingly grotesque and brutal affair that uses extreme fictional violence to explore the cyclical nature of the real thing. Parents who pass cruelties and aggression onto the children create cruel and aggressive children, but Giang isn’t stopping there.
As the title suggests, and as is made evident in the very first scenes, the American fast-food chain KFC (along with Coca-Cola and Pepsi) plays a far from subtle role here. Fatty foods lead to overweight children while the desire to indulge in these taste sensations leads to theft and violence. A Coke can is used as a literal deadly weapon at one point, and as the stories converge into a single thread you come to realize that this particular nightmare originated in the bright, shining beacon of the West that is a KFC.
You’ll also realize that this movie will never get an official release here as KFC will most likely not approve of pairing its products alongside murder, rape, torture, and cannibalism. Most likely.
The film’s structure is arguable in its necessity as we move between characters as well as forward and backward in time, but there’s a method to the madness. A linear narrative would lack some of the impact gained through the reveals as we connect the dots on characters’ origins and fates. Random nihilism has its own power, but seeing cause and effect in this jumbled way creates a puzzle that entertains and enlightens in unison.
And as grim as the film’s content is Giang makes an effort to punctuate the violence and obscenity with brief bits of black comedy and the occasional glimpse of beauty. They’re very brief and occasional, but they’re there. Sometimes the kids are allowed to be kids, and sometimes love feels like it can last forever.
It’s barely a feature at just over sixty-eight minutes, and budgetary restraints leave some visual effects wanting, but Kfc is a highly effective and disturbing film all the same. As the pieces fall into place we see the effect that older generations have on the young, both in their direct and indirect actions. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it’s not pretty.
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