STREET FIGHTER: ASSASSIN'S FIST - A Case For Better Action Movies


I remember when 1993 or '94 came when Jean-Claude Van Damme was entering the peak of his career with Capcom's first live-action theatrical interpretation of the Street Fighter universe that saw military character Guile as the lead. To some, including myself, it was good for its time despite not even coming close to owning up to the source material, and mainly because it was a kids' film, geared toward young teens who liked Van Damme movies and appealed to watching actors in Street Fighter costumes imitating characters from the game.

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.

Don't look here and expect anything less than one of the greatest, most comprehensive pieces of live action fighting video game-based martial arts cinema ever manifested through the eyes of a hungry director like Ansah. He and Howard are probably two of the coolest motherfuckers you will ever know in this life when it comes to Street Fighter. They got their thinking caps and Ansatsuken gloves together and made some serious magic happen with this series.

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.

But more to the point here, and quite obviously, the milk and cookies of this serial movie is the coming-of-age story of Ryu and Ken, and let's face it. No other two actors out there could have pulled it off more than Howard and fellow lead actor Mike Moh, and maybe I'm wrong. But if I was, it would have happened by now. These two have officially solidified what our generation of Street Fighter fans will come to know as the live-action manifestations of two of the most important characters of this franchise-the principle reasons why the quarter-rotation of a joystick with the punch button meant so much to most of us growing up and playing these games through the years. But there's also a certain subtletly in this origin story, one that points to a single central, dark and redeeming truth that keeps this series so fresh.

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.

It could have happened. It really could have.

I've probably cussed more than in this review than in any review I've written. But somethings need to be said. And not only have I said my peace, I will continue to preach the gospel, as you should. Because Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist is just that fucking good!

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...

...Consider yourself challenged! Go and watch Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist and take notes!

Comments

  1. Realmente,concordo com tudo que li acima!Street Fighter Assassin's Fist ficou incrível!!Eu tenho 32 anos de idade,e sou fã da série desde meus 10 anos!Depois das decepções de 1994 e 2009,eu sinceramente não tinha muita esperança no projeto de Joey Ansah e Christian Howard.Mas depois de ter assistido ''Assassin's Fist'' 4 vezes desde o lançamento dia 23 (sexta feira passada),não me canso de elogiar o trabalho de Joey,Christian e do resto do elenco que tornou esse projeto realidade!Tudo o que eu sempre quis ver como um grande fã de Street Fighter,está em ''Assassin's Fist''!!O meu maior desejo agora,era poder apertar as mãos de Joey Ansah e Christian Howard e dizer à eles o quanto fiquei surpreso e admirado com o resultado do trabalho deles!!Muito obrigado mesmo,de coração!Vocês deixaram esse grande fã de Street Fighter muito contente e satisfeito!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A mim também. Como fã de Street Fighter fiquei muito grato, e ainda fizeram uma bela homenagem ao mascote esquecido da Capcom.

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