A movie review of “Kung Fu Elliot”: This gritty documentary puts the spotlight on Elliot Scott, a quirky martial-arts enthusiast and filmmaker who hopes to become “Canada’s first action hero.”
Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau’s gritty documentary, “Kung Fu Elliot,” feels at first as if it’s gently parodying a “making of” movie. Its subject, Elliot Scott, is a quirky, sweet-faced martial-arts enthusiast and filmmaker from Nova Scotia who hopes to become, he says, “Canada’s first action hero.” Hey, everyone needs a hobby.
With the help of his girlfriend, Linda Lum, and unpaid acquaintances, Elliot has already made two no-budget movies he calls “respectable cheese.” (The clips shown suggest otherwise.)
“Kung Fu Elliot” chronicles his amateurish efforts to make a third feature, “Blood Fight,” which he expects will be his breakthrough. Watching Elliot and his fellows stumble determinedly through shoots, pleasantly delusional about the movie’s prospects, is mildly amusing, a testament to indie film’s appeal for a certain hardy strain of dreamer.
‘Kung Fu Elliot,’ a documentary directed by Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau. 89 minutes. Not rated. SIFF Film Center.
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
But the joke sours, and the documentary, filmed over two years, turns darker. Linda tires of footing the bill, and their relationship frays. Enrolled in an acupuncture school, Elliot travels with his class to China, partly to film martial-arts masters at a Shaolin temple. In an interview with the head of the monastery, though, it’s apparent how empty Elliot’s claims of being a champion kickboxer are.
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Upon his return home, reality and fantasy increasingly collide, and Elliot’s distorted perspective slips into outright lies to friends and documentarians alike. By the abrupt and bizarre end of this odd little film, the question is whether Elliot’s just a low-grade scam artist or afflicted with a personality disorder. Or both.