Joey Ansah,Christian Howard,Mike Moh,Akira Koieyama,Shogun Itokazu,Gaku Space,Hyunri Lee
Directed By : Joey Ansah
Street Fighter Assassins Fist
Street Fighter the video game has become a world wide phenomenon since it's release in the arcades back in 1987. The first game set the groundwork for the series which really took of with it's sequel Street Fighter II.
Now where on Street Fighter IV which appeared on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles., of each of it's iterations have had various upgrade versions resulting in many games and even some spin of games ,namely the Alpha series (ZERO in Japan) and the 3D EX games.
Of course in that time many have tried to capture the spirit of the game in various films ,some officially licensed and others not.
There are a series of Animated features which are a worthy watch ,but for most part live action film versions of video games have paled in comparison to their video game brothers.
The one officially licensed full length feature ( Street Fighter 'The Movie -1994) with Jean Claude Van Damme (Guile) ,the late Raul Julia (Bison ) and Kylie Minogue (Cammy) is a mish-mash film that bears no real resemblance to the story of Street Fighter. Add to this the makers spent most of there money casting Julia and JCVD and had little left for casting other roles other then using unknown unestablished actors for the other characters which seemed to be thrown into the mix just to get as many characters from the game appear in the film.
Least to say,it was not well received by the fans, The later filmed ''Legend of Chun Li '' from 2009 did not fair any better ,it starred Kristin Kreuk ( Smallville) as Chun Li and focused on her story in her fight against Shadaloo . The film had better fight scenes compared to the JCVD movie for some of the scenes partly due to Robin Shou ( Mortal Kombat, Tiger Cage 2) playing Gen in the movie. But the movie again failed to capture the spirit of the games.
I could go on about the many unofficial features featuring the characters of Street Fighter , many of which stemmed from Hong Kong and for most part delivered some pretty hardcore action but of course being unofficial the stories often bore no connection to the video game series ,mostly through fear of lawsuits I suppose.
So when I heard of this mini web series being made with approval by CAPCOM and written and directed by real martial artists with a passion for the game I became curious to how it would all turn out.
Not only that ,but finding out that the series would focus on the early years of Ryu and Ken I was even more hyped for it as it surrounds the Alpha/ZERO period ,a firm favourite of mine due to playing the Alpha games for hours on end on my Saturn and Dreamcast consoles all those years ago.
What makes this even more exciting was the appearance of Director ,Writers and stars Joey Ansah,Christian Howard and Akira Koieyama at the May 2014 MCM comic con in London which we attended and even got to meet the stars and sit in on a panel for the series where they shared their filming experiences and explained their goals in making the series the best it could possibly be.
Spanning twelve mini episodes each running about 12 minutes which was released on Machinima's Youtube channel just days before the MCM show in May.
The series will also be compiled in to a TV series to be aired on a undisclosed channel in the not so distant future as well as a TV movie and a special edit with added footage and extras to be released on DVD and Bluray towards the end of 2014 ..
Now we have viewed the series in it's entirety I can say it is a amazing production that shows a passion for the video game series never seen before in a live action or even animated film.
The story focuses on the teachings by Gouken ( Akira Koieyama) to his students Ryu and Ken as they train for years to harness the power of the arts . The film also tells the story of Gouken's early years and his brother Gouki ,played by Shogun Itokazu and Gaku Space.
It focuses on the birth of Akuma the demon and how in the years to come Gouken must prepare his students and himself for what may manifest.
The series follows Ryu and Ken's progress but is intertwined with flashback scenario's from Gouken's past and how he himself became master of the house he teaches.
What makes the series so special is the time it seems spent on making the action scenes as pleasing to watch as possible whilst retaining the core of the Street Fighter games.
Being true martial artists for many years Joey Ansah and Christian Howard thought how they could incorporate the style of Street Fighter within the arts they know. And being a martial artist my self its quite amazing to see these guys perform some brilliant action whilst adding in trademark moves and combinations from the video game.
Of course the main part of Ryu and Ken's training is to master the Hadou technique,concentrating
their good chi to harness a blue like flame of energy which can be unleashed as a projectile attack.
These where done in most part with real pyrotechnics and balls of fire attached to wires which the actors shot along the wires from their hands down the wires . Apart from being effective it gave the actors something physical to handle and see as oppose to using a a CGI method which in most cases looks like a CGI implement.
This was done by utilising a fire resistant protective gel the actors could handle whilst handing a real flaming ball. Though Joey Ansah did say he did have a incident when he set his hands on fire when shooting a scene as Akuma.
The other thing about the series is the way all the characters / actors work so well together because of their love for the Street Fighter series of games. The talent on hand is quite brilliant in both martial arts skills and acting talent. Joey Ansah (Akuma) a martial artist , action choreographer and producer got really noticed when was the choreographer for the film Bourne Ultimatum in which also starred and fought against Matt Damon. This has led to his work on films like Snow White and the Huntsmen and Attack the Block among others.
Mike Moh who plays Ryu has also done some expansive work on Kamen Rider by Steve Wang, Supah Ninjas ,a USA TV series and even worked on Rob-B-Hood ,the Jackie Chan movie as well as other programmes and films. He also holds a fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo.
The of course we have Akira Koieyama ,who recently worked on the film ''47 Ronin'' with Keanu Reeves and ''RUSH '' the Formula One racing film about James Hunt and Nicky Lauder. As well as being a stunt performer in 2003's The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe.
So as you can see the pedigree for the series is high and it really shows in the production values , it really does look like your watching a film made for the big screen ,unlike a lot of web or even TV series productions.
From being at the MCM panel with the stars we learnt the process to get the official go ahead for the series was no easy task.
Joey and Christian had already set the ball rolling prior to getting permission by filming the short ''Street Fighter Legacy '' back in 2010 with the intent to prove to Capcom they could make a lasting tribute to the series . But it was not until 2012 ,after lots of back and forth that Capcom granted them the license to film the series .
To gain money the project was initially to be funded by Kickstarter , but this was removed when financial backers stepped in with money for the project some of which came from Capcom I understand.
But even then once given the go ahead they met other obstacles , the Street Fighter Legacy project had Martial arts Actor Jon Foo star as Ryu , this was a problem for Joey and Christian who had to find new blood for the role as John Foo had gone on to star as Jin Kazuma in the Tekken film , a video game adaptation from Capcom's rivals Bandai Namco.
But it did not stop there , Capcom also announced they where looking into granting the license to another party to make a full cinematic film , of course the Assassins Fists creators thought this unfair as they where going to make their production film like and have it released as such eventually and with hope that they may continue with a sequel to in the future.
In the end it all came out all-right for the team , hopefully the extended TV series and DVD/Bluray sales will make it worthwhile to continue with the series for the guys ..
The guys gave hints that if given the green light that the next instalments would concentrate on Guile's story and that they favour Ninja Star Scott Adkins to play the role of Guile, of note Scott Adkins was in the audience at MCM ,taking time out from his autograph signing sessions to support the guys.
Street Fighter Assassins Fist is a fitting tribute to the series of video games , the in-depth characterisation of the key roles in the series makes you believe your really watching the actual characters from the game. When you see that first Hadouken performed your jump for joy performing a Shorinkyu .
The only other fighting game adaptation that came close to capturing the spirit of the game was the first Mortal Kombat film with Robin Shou , the sequel was lacklustre and messy , the Tekken movie never quite got it right , though I did like John Foo as Jin.. As for the other two based on ''The King of Fighters'' and ''Dead or Alive '' failed miserably to due to script writers and directors not caring about the source of the license they had bought.
Hopefully now with the event of Assassins Fist , maybe video game companies will be more cautious who they allow to portray their IP's in film as in all honesty bad adaptations can only damage the IP in some way ..
Assassins Fist will be seen by millions, I'm sure it will fuel more interest in the game series ,especially with those that may have played the games ten or twenty years ago, and maybe there be curious to see what Street Fighter has to offer on today's systems. And vice versa the long life fans of the series will support the live action adaptation by buying the DVD /Bluray ,so more can be made.
Congratulations must go to Joey Ansah,Christiian Howard, Akira Koieyama and the rest of the team for making such a passionate series. And also their down to earth and friendly persona that came across so well to all the fans at MCM in May 2014.
For all you reading this , if your a Street Fighter fan or not ,you may even not even dabble in video games at all , it does not matter, as Street Fighter ''Assassins Fist'' is one of the best things your see this year featuring martial arts and if you love martial arts it would be a sin to miss this series.
Go watch it now on Machinima's Youtube channel..
And don't forget to buy the DVD/Bluray when released to see all the extras.
Reviewed by : Sertes Nake
Score out of Ten = 9
Joey Ansah,Christian Howard and Akira Koieyama at MCM Comic Con London in May 2014
12 Episodes - approx 12 Minutes each -released May 23rd 2014
English / Japanese
See where it all started in Street Fighter Legacy
Episode 1 - ''Beginnings''
Episode 2 - Round One ''Fight''
Episode 3 - ''Satsui No Hado''
Episode 4 - ''A Rough Night''
Episode 5 - ''Banished''
Episode 6 - '' Demons Within''
Episode 7 - '' Path of the Shin Oni''
Episode 8 - ''The Ultimate Sacrifice''
Episode 9 - '' The Calm Before the Storm''
Episode 10 - '' The Raging Demon''
Episode 11 - '' May the Best Man Win''
Episode 12 - '' End Game''
* All Episodes Directed By Joey Ansah and Written By Joey Ansah and Christian Howard.
* All Episodes where released on Machinima's Youtube Channel together on May 23rd 2014