Ultimately, Joey Ansah wasn't one of those kids. And for good reason.
Years passed and in 2009, we were eventually offered to see a female-led feature version of the classic fighting game franchise that would have led one to believe that a proper live-action rendition of the game would have done justice to the fans, especially those since 1994, despite obvious skepticism. Well, that effort didn't bode quite so well, critically or commercially. As for me, I had expectations and I was let down by a number of things Justin Marks' screenplay got wrong; To be honest, however, the only thing keeping me from completely forgiving that film is Chris Kline's shitty acting. Really, there are somethings in life that shouldn't be seen, and if you're a victim of this, you have my deepest sympathies. Hugs. Now get off me, and look at what Joey Ansah did. Look at it. And by all means, lick the screen and taste the firepower of this man's awesome storytelling. You know you want to.
There there, now.
I've been an action fan all of my life, and I often look at actors in films and wonder what else could come of them. Having seen Ansah in the 2007 thriller, The Bourne Ultimatum, I never would have guessed this man would become something as prolific and grand as the next director to lend an avenging, symbolic 'Fuck You' to almost every single wanna-be director and producer that ever looked at a video game like the highly successful Street Fighter franchise and said "I think I can do that! Sure, just get a bunch of actors that look like the characters, train them for six months, brush up on the source material at the last minute and pretend that we know what we're talking about when it comes time to record the featurettes for the DVD."
No, I say. You neither can, nor will you ever have the creative balls to tap into the original source material and create something as majestic and long overdue as Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, a story of love, friendship, family, sacrifice and spiritual awakening that actually gives the Street Fighter fans an actual filmic adventure they can celebrate for decades to come. Everything from the characters and interpersonal relationships, to the internal struggles that each person faces, each episode brings something newer and brighter to the development of this truly magnificent origin tale that sees primary characters Ryu and Ken grow from childhood to adulthood in their years as students of 'Ansatsuken' under master Goken.
But accordingly, it is so much more than that, as the series goes back even further, attributed to Goken's past ae he trains under master Gotetsu with brother Goki, whose lust for the mastery of the Assassin's Fist sets up the ultimate framework that the series needs to construct the central focus points of the story, as well as the increasing danger levels of the hard-hitting action. And by all means, the action hits so goddamn hard. Like, ow.
The martial arts choreography is so tightly woven together thanks to the efforts of Ansah and co-creator/writer and star Christian Howard who directed the action sequences. The shortfilm they put together back in 2010 with actor Jon Foo was merely a proof of concept that showed the potential that this project has to offer, from the costumes to the choreography, the special moves and the overall framework of the story that lends so much to the detail seen now in this new series, which I honestly thought I would live to see. Seriously, sometimes I look at Hollywood and wonder who is pulling the strings and willfully giving us suckers so much crap to spend tickets on when it comes to live action adaptations, or some action movies in general. No, I don't deny that a lot of them entertain me-if they didn't, I wouldn't bother going to the movies. But this fact is not synonymous with being able to see a director or a writer tap into the full potential a quality serial action feature can bring, especially when applied to a popular brand of game or comic book.
The performances they drew from the cast warmed me to my core and blew me away to the point where I found myself nearly drooling. Not to mention, actor Togo Igawa... That man. The first thing you see is his mouth, and his mouth means business, especially when he's got the Ansatsuken beads on as Master Gotetsu, headlining the history of our young characters Goken, Goki and Sayaka, played respectively by Shogen, Gaku Space and Hyunri; All of their performances touched me for their own reasons, from Shogen and actor Akira Koieyama, whose respective portrayals as Goken brings so much goddamn heart and soul with a character that has experienced an enduring sense of stoicism that anyone who has ever had a broken heart can relate to, to the tumultous father and son relationship with actor Mark Kileen playing Ken's father, and the dramatic intensity between Sayaka and Goki/Akuma, played by Hyunri, with Space and Ansah transitioning the latter character into the very dark backbone of this series. And believe me, if you have been wanting to see what Akuma would look like on film, there it is, right there: Ansah in full bloom, and its the most awesomely hanuting, and chilling eyegasm you will ever experience in your life if you've ever been a fan of the franchise in one form or another.
As it stands, this series is a prime example of storytelling and action, combined with a mature sense of detailed philosphical inner-reflection that reminds you that despite the nobility and purity of our characters, and any mistaken perpendicular divide between good and evil, there are no heroes in this tale. Quite ostensibly, there is darkness in the world, mirrored only through our own actions and willingness to either overcome that darkness, or be seduced, and ultimately consumed by it.
That is the legacy to which this story is referred. And that is the spirit of this story we now get to see in 2014.
I can honestly say that in full confidence, I have evolved as a martial arts cinema fan. To be granted the opportunity to be alive to day to see this story come to live in such an irrevocably admirable, empassioned and respectable way is a reminder of how far we have all come, despite all doubt and frustration that any filmmaker could bring this story to life without having to adhere to what we ended up with in 1994 and 2009. And to think that if Ansah and Howard didn't take the route they did and became the dual-powered driving force for this vision of a live-action Street Fighter, we would have likely ended up with a possible sequel that would have killed the cinematic potential of this franchise with direct-to-video releases.
Fans, there's plenty more to observe in this series than I have divulged, but trust and believe when I tell you that director Joey Ansah understands your needs. He is that man, that fan, that actor, that filmmaker, that artist you have waited for in the hopes that Street Fighter would get its just dues on film. And you can all rest your hearts now, knowing that as of today, it finally has.
Take a bow Joey, for this is your moment. And to the director out there who might possibly be pondering an opportunity like this with other popular games like the Mortal Kombat film that Kevin Tancharoen recently backed away from, or even King Of Fighters or another favorite of mine, Tekken, I say this...