Many's the dog's dinner that has been made of the Street Fighter franchise when it comes to it's port to the film world. 1994 saw the pretty awful Van Damme movie which was little more than a poorly cobbled together cash in aimed at kids and then in 2009 we got the well produced but more than a little racist Legend Of Chun-Li. Neither films really did the game series justice and it looked like Street Fighter was doomed to be a game phenomenon only.
Written by, directed, choreographed and co-starring Joey Ansah, the plot tells the tale of a young Ryu and Ken during their training days before the first Street Fighter Tournament. The story borrows heavily from the Street Fighter Lore with particular focus on later characters from the Super and Alpha street fighter series of games. The character of Akuma (played by Ansah) is a heavy focus as well as the two main characters and the cast list is kept fairly lean with little of no mention of the World Warrior cast.
Considering it is a web series and crowdfunded the film has surprisingly good production values. Lots of nice outdoor locations are used tastefully and the main set of Gouken's training house looks really good. The effects are above average TV quality which do their job very well and aside from a dodgy wig or overly bright costume here and there it has an extremely well grounded and realistic look to the entire thing. It would have been nice to maybe see a real life set built to look like the Ryu stage in the game but you can't have it all.
Now to the actual meat of the action. Joey Ansah has created nothing short of a masterpiece with Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist and that's not an exaggeration. The biggest plus point is that the source material is treated with absolute seriousness and respect. There are no cheesy kid friendly lines in the script, there are no safe fight scenes and there is no placement of unnecessary characters just for show. This is Street Fighter getting the 100% adult treatment it deserves and no mistake.
An additional round of applause has to go to Ansah for the magnificent decision of having at least 80% of the dialogue spoken in Japanese. This adds TREMENDOUSLY to the authenticity of the story and setting as well as upping the highly dramatic feel of the whole package.
Of course you cannot have a film bearing the name Street Fighter without some martial arts action and once again Assassin's Fits does not disappoint. The fight scenes are expertly choreographed and beautifully shot by Ansah and fellow martial Artist Christian Howerda who play's Ken. This is near Hong Kong quality and the cherry on the cake is the way it weaves in moves from the game so effortlessly without seeming the slightest bit cheesy or forced.
The cast is also brilliant! Christian Howerda IS Ken in every way possible. He actually looks near identical to his game counterpart and his attitude is spot on. Mike Moh stars as Ryu and first impressions suggest that this isn't quite who I would have picked to play the role as he doesn't really look like the game character but Mike is an extremely competent martial artist and after about half an hour you actually do buy him as Ryu. Joey Ansah stars as Akuma and looks a little cosplay-like in direct light but some moody lighting and a very sinister delivery as well as a commanding physical performance allows him to really get away with it. One could maybe complain of 'blackwashing' in having an English man of colour playing a Japanese character but Ansah probably realised this and he more than makes up for this with not only a great performance but in casting an asian actor as Gokui who is Akuma in his youth before the transformation. Togo Igawa absolutely kill it as Gôtetsu and his presence makes you feel like this is a proper Japanese period piece and is maybe even the highlight of the entire film, not only for his acting scenes but his participation in the action fights as well. His double casting as Goma showcases his comedic talents too and one can't help but belly laugh at the torrent of hilarious Japanese insults thrown at Ken. Hyunri as Sayaka injects some semi-romantic sections which are used wisely to evoke a sense of tragedy rather than crowbar in some mush for the sake of it and other supporting characters who star as younger versions of the characters or relations do the job excellently.
It's really hard to fault Assassin's Fist unless you are a 12 year old with the attention span of a goldfish. Some fans complained that it was 'boring', 'too talky' or didn't feature enough characters but in a world awash with shallow action only takes of games it's incredibly refreshing to really get a proper dramatic and focused take on the amazing franchise which is the Street Fighter series.
For 20 years Mortal Kombat was considered the best video game to film adaptation and technically in the purely movie world it still is but Assassin's Fist absolutely mauls it in terms of depth, story, plot and more importantly accuracy.
10/10 on all counts for a truly remarkable effort that simply blows the competition away and FINALLY gives us the true and adult adaptation of the series that changed the face of the video game world a quarter of a century ago.
It seems we've at last found the 'Ansah' to all our expectations!!!
I'll see myself out....
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.