Anime Reporter button bashes furiously because I can never remember the combos after the nostalgic wonder that is Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist.
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist first came into being as an online series of twelve videos. These were later restructured into six episodes for television, then into a TV movie and, finally, into an extended DVD/ Bluray release. The final, two and a half hour film is what I’ll be taking a look at today.
Already, some readers might feel that two and a half hours is a little bit too much time to spend looking at cartoonish, video-game style fighting in one sitting. This would certainly be true, but Assassin’s Fist is far from the camp, awkward affair you might expect. Assassin’s Fist was penned by Joey Ansah and Christian Howard, both of whom also star in major roles throughout. It’s very clear that both men have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for the Street Fighter series. Street Fighter carries a certain mythology with it, both in the video games and the numerous anime adaptations. Ansah, who also directed the film, has stated that he wanted Assassin’s Fist to feel like a part of the series and it’s certainly easy to see this. Careful attention is paid to build on existing plots and character traits while also adding fresh material to proceedings. While a lot of respect and attention is certainly paid to what has come before, Assassin’s Fist is easily accessible for Street Fighter newcomers, taking care to introduce characters and concepts clearly with extra nods and winks thrown in for diehard fans.
Assassin’s Fist is, in many ways, an origin story, and focuses for the majority of the time on a young Ken (played by Christian Howard) and Ryu (played by Mike Moh, well known for his work on Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight), still in training. The story starts in the late 1980s (possibly around August 30th 1987) and shows the two young men still training together after years of studying under their teacher, Gouken (portrayed excellently by 47 Ronin’s Akira Koieyama). The film follows the two as they progress past being mere martial arts experts and learn to master the ways of the Hado, with the goal at the end of it all being some of the super moves most widely recognised from the games. Tied alongside this, we get more than a few glimpses into the past at Gouken’s time studying the Hado and some of the terrible consequences it had for him. The plot, while undoubtedly a long one, is well paced, keeping action, humour and drama in a healthy balance.
The action is impressive, with the majority of the characters having at least one fight and more than a few martial arts displays. Even more impressive is how well fights were choreographed to include many moves from the games without it feeling forced or cheesy. Combat is swift and incredibly well executed by the cast with very little in the way of CGI or slow motion effects to replace hand-to-hand fighting. Ansah, who began his career as a stunt double before moving on to parts in Batman Begins and a highly praised fight scene in the Bourne Ultimatum, also takes on a major role within the film. Ansah portrays Akuma, a villainous powerhouse who’s been a staple of the series since Street Fighter II Turbo. There are many references to other characters from the series as well as a few cheeky nods to the games themselves.
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist offers impressive visual effects and cinematography and, despite its beginnings as a web series, looks about as great as anyone could hope. The cast is superb in both English and Japanese. In particular, a lot of credit needs to go to Togo Igawa (from Memoirs of a Geisha and The Last Samurai) for his portrayal of Goutetsu and to Akira Koieyama for his stern but paternal portrayal of Gouken. Mike Moh plays an understated but very likeable version of Ryu, perhaps less confident than the veteran fighter fans are used to. Christian Howard stumbles occasionally as Ken, from time to time falling into the comfort zone of portraying the young hothead, but more than holds his own during action sequences and even manages to deliver some very genuine scenes when his character is allowed to calm down. Ansah provides a suitably intimidating figure, showing great presence and ability on both sides of the camera.
Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist may challenge viewers to take it more seriously than you thought you would, while staying very true to its roots and being damned entertaining all the while. The action is coming your way on DVD and Bluray from Monday October 27th 2014 and will include a plethora of extras including director’s commentary, outtakes, a making-of feature and Ken’s Video Diary.
Assassin’s Fist is also far from a standalone as the next instalment, Street Fighter: World Warrior is already in development.
Martial Arts Action: 9.5
Faitfulness to Original/ Nostalgia Factor: 9
Special Effects and Cinematography: 8
87% – “Seriously Kickass!” – Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist gives fans and newcomers alike a great reason to delve into a live action version of Capcom’s world of flying fists and loudly shouting the name of your move as you perform it.