Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist (2014)

Posted in Reviews by - February 17, 2018
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist (2014)

The terms “fan-fiction”, “web series” and “based on a video game” would understandably make most people run a mile. But this epic, introspective origin story on the Ken and Ryu characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter is an excellent exception to the rule. This was originally commissioned as a 12-part YouTube series consisting of 10-15 minute episodes, but watched as a whole, it’s an engrossing, enveloping, novel-like experience. British fight choreographer turned writer-director, Joey Ansah, creates both a heartfelt homage to the original source material and an accomplished character study which stands up as a dramatic entity in its own right. Part of its genius stems from the way it engineers the computer game’s more campy elements into a convincing narrative which is befitting of the character’s motives. So when people start yelling “hadouken” and throwing fireballs, or launching 20 feet into the air from the force of their punches, it never feels out of place or incongruous. This jostling between fantasy and realism has always been a major stumbling block in every live-action adaptation of this popular video game (see 1994’s Street Fighter and 2009’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li for certifiable evidence of this), but this marries the two polarising elements with great ease and confidence. It helps that Ansah restricts his opus to only a small number of characters, focusing instead on a coherent narrative that never once feels jeopardised or overwhelmed.

In fact, the main bulk of the story isn’t even about Ken and Ryu (played masterfully by Christian Howard and Mike Moh respectively), but instead it concentrates on the backstory of their sensei, Gouken (Akira Koieyama), and the pursuit of ‘ansatsuken’ – the dark arts. Told in flashback, we learn of a familial feud which sees Gouken and his brother, Gouki (Gaku Space), become divided in their individual quests for martial supremacy. Gouken stays in the light, while his brother becomes corrupted, mutating into evil personified in the form of Akuma (another character from the game, played by Joey Ansah). This yin-yang motif conjures up references to Anakin Skywalker’s descent into darkness and his evolution into the Darth Vader character from the Star Wars saga, and the themes in this film are quite similar: the master-pupil dynamic, the pursuit of power and the blurred lines between good and evil. Ken and Ryu become implicitly linked in this ongoing generational feud, and as they start to excel in their training, similar troubles start to manifest, testing both their competitive nature and their close personal bond. Most of the film is in Japanese, which adds a further layer of authenticity and helps to mark it out from other western film adaptations (although the film is actually shot in Sofia, Bulgaria). Ansah’s fight choreography is also on point, maximising the incredible skill of his versatile cast, while also cleverly embedding well-known traits from the game. It’s the Street Fighter movie no one expected and we certainly didn’t deserve.

AKA: Street Fighter: Ansatsuken.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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