Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist Review

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist

Well, that was a quick break! Yes, we’re back to a fighting game adaptation, and on our third attempt at Street Fighter no less, but for the first time the (admittedly small) crew actually decided to hand wave the idea of trying to appeal to a mass market and just make a straight adaptation for fans like themselves. Originally a mini-series uploaded to YouTube (with the first preview being called “Alpha”, which is why I reviewed Alpha 3 along with this…? It’s not, but whatever), Assassin’s Fist was eventually compiled into a film. All that being said, is such a small fan production any good? Does doing such justice to the source material produce a better film? Let’s find out!

Synopsis:

As Ryu and Ken near the end of their training they are impatient to master the power of “Hado”, but their master, Goken, worries about sharing these powerful techniques due to events from his past…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist 1

… Yep, that’ll do for a live-action young Ryu and Ken. Top marks on that front.

The main plus point to the film has to be its strict adherence to the source material, both in story, look and even movement. Given the cast is made up mostly of actual martial artists it’s no surprise that when the action gets going, it’s good. Very good in some cases. Mike Moh’s Ryu and Christian Howard’s Ken are fine, they look the part and while their acting won’t light the world of fire, Howard performs the likeable-yet-cocky nature of his character well, while Moh is good at the well-behaved but lacking in self-confidence young Ryu. Throw in Akira Koieyama as their master Gouken, a stern but caring figure, and the lead trio serve the plot well.

That being said, at least half of the film, if not more, is focused on a young Gouken (played by an actor simply known as “Shogen”), his brother Gouki (Gaku Space) and their master Goutetsu (Togo Igawa), plus Goutetsu’s niece Sayaka (Hyunri). Gouki and Gouken are orphaned and so grow up under their master’s strict teachings, but Goutetsu knows of the corrupting influence of the “Dark Hado” that must be used to achieve the greatest moves in the Ansatsuken style and wishes to steer his students away from that path. Gouki follows his teacher’s ways and tries to find a new way to use the Hado without being corrupted, but Gouki sneaks into his master’s room and reads the true methods and gets expelled for it (not before trying to kill Gouken and tearfully say goodbye to Sayaka, whom he’d started to become romantically connected with).

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist 4

I think… THINK he might be tapping into the Dark Hado. Pretty sure… Yep.

As you know if you follow Street Fighter lore, Gouki goes all the way with the Dark Hado and becomes a demon, or an “Akuma”… in other words he becomes the popular character Akuma (played by Joey Ansah). Akuma eventually returns, kills Goutetsu and then buggers off back up the mountain, leaving Gouken to go on his warrior’s journey, eventually returning to find an old man with the orphaned Ryu in is hands. It’s a perfectly fine story, though with one problem I’ll get to down below…

As for Ryu and Ken, in what is billed as the main attraction, they start getting the hang of the more friendly version of Ansatsuken Gouken has been teaching them, and soon they face off in a final exam that sees Ryu accidentally tap into the Dark Hado and go momentarily “Evil Ryu” mode before being snapped out of it with a fiery Shoryuken by his good friend. The two are told to go on their warrior’s journey and head off to the US…

It’s… fine. Like I said, the fight choreography is great, which given the backgrounds of those involved makes sense, and even the special effects aren’t bad for what was essentially a free internet series. It ends with a post-credits tease of Ryu and Ken getting a taxi in America as someone wheels a few crates with the Shadaloo logo on it. Sadly, as of 2020, this foreshadowing has gone nowhere…

The Bad:

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist 2

I mean he looks the part, if the part wasn’t just previously played by a Japanese guy…

I have to say that Gouki turning from a flawed and jealous Japanese trainee into a decidedly not Japanese guy who is trying to sound like an extra gravelly Batman is a bit of a let-down. I get that Joey Ansah, co-writer and director of the series, is a big fan and great in a fight scene but he really should’ve just stuck behind the camera and cast someone who looks a bit more like who he cast as Gouki, and someone who could do a threatening voice that doesn’t sound like a kid in a playground trying to sound “cool and evil”.

Other than that my main gripe has to be the length. The version I watched on Prime was two and a half hours. That’s a long time to be with average actors and the same scenery, especially since 85% of the film is training sequences (in two different eras!) I believe the original film cut was a good deal shorter, so I would’ve preferred if that has been the one that ended up online, either that or just keep it as a series. I know I could’ve spread it out like a series over several days, but in my eyes a film is a film, something to be watched in one sitting (brief pauses for trips to the lav notwithstanding) and in that sense it didn’t work. If it was kept a series it wouldn’t have made it on this marathon though, but hey-ho…

On a separate note, the ending is crap. Ryu and Ken go off to America and as Gouken sees them off Akuma appears behind him, the two recap what we just saw in flashbacks across the film, and just as they’re about to have their long-teased showdown we cut to credits. That’s it. No big end fight, no climax. All tease, no delivery. I get that it would end with Gouken’s apparent death and that may not have been the lightest tone to end on, but this is clearly aimed only at fans so we know that’s what happened after the credits, so why not give us a big final fight to “send us home happy” (even though we’re all already home)… Odd choice.

Sayaka is interesting as an extra string to the Akuma backstory bow, but she then continued to hang about with Gouken, then left him when her uncle died in what was supposed to be a heart-breaking moment for the latter, but it just read as false because she clearly didn’t actually want to be with him and we all knew it, and we were hardly shown anything to do with her after the fact, so why she even continued to hang about after Gouki left, let alone started to sleep with the person she viewed as at least partially responsible for it I have no idea. Forced by her uncle, maybe? *shrugs*

Overall Thoughts:

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist 3

“That’s great work, now show Ryu, Ken!”  *Ken proceeds to uppercut high into the air*   “That’s… that’s not what I meant.”

Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is on the one hand the most accurate fighting game adaptation, if not overall game adaptation, by a wide margin and has some really good fight scenes and moments for some of the characters, but on the other hand it’s long, drawn out and filled with average-at-best acting and a disappointing non-finish. I probably won’t be watching again, but it does deserve praise, mostly due to its low-budget nature meaning it overachieved, really…

3 Star Watch

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