Canada/Hong Kong, 2010: The King of Fighters
The King of Fighters
Canada/Hong Kong, 2010
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Fantasy
As a secret martial arts tournament is hijacked by a power hungry villain, destined enemies must come together to save the world.
Following in the footsteps of other video game cash-in films, Gordon Chan directs this adaptation of the popular fighting franchise King of Fighters. Based very loosely on the source material, the movie is a complete mess of a production. The CGI effects look terrible, and the practical effects look cramped and stale. It was as if everything was shot for a television studio instead of for a feature film. The cinematography is amateur and flat, getting the job done with some very poor decisions along the way. The costumes look beyond ridiculous, as if they were trying to mimic the video game style without knowing what the gameís character designs looked like at all. Really, the production team just went further than they were capable of going, and it shows.
Without a clear idea of whether they were making an adaptation or a new interpretation or something else entirely, the casting and performances are some of the strangest Iíve seen all year. Nowhere is this clearer than the comically miscast David Leitch as Terry Bogard, the mascot for SNKís Fatal Fury and King of Fighters series. Written as a completely different character from the video games, they still chose to dress him in the iconic costume, as if the wardrobe and writing teams were working on two different movies. The performances themselves range from scene chewing ham by Ray Parkís cartoonishly evil Rugal to Sean Farisís wooden and dull reading of Kyo Kusanagi, one of the young heroes of the story. Maggie Q picks up top billing as Mai Shiranui, one of the top fighters in the tournament, and delivers a decent performance for what she has to work with. Her acting chops still donít seem particularly strong, but my opinion might change if she ever gets the chance to move on to more sophisticated roles.
The plot to The King of Fighters is beyond ridiculous, somehow managing to be even more ridiculous and unbelievable than the video gameís. Of the three writers credited on the film, only Chris Chow has any prior experience, lending his pen to a handful of films before this, although it seems that his past film credits are all over the place. The script is constantly trying to justify its own absurdity to the audience, as if somehow the idea of a secret tournament taking place in another dimension with magical artifacts and ancient evil powers needs to be based in reality. Every line of dialogue just adds to the surrealism of the experience, in a way that needs to be heard to be believed.
The action doesnít fare much better. Although they did use the talented Ray Park and Maggie Q for their athletic abilities, the difference between the trained performers and everyone else is staggering. The choreography is either simplified to help along the actors who lack martial arts training, or poorly shot to disguise the stunt doubles used to fill in. The fights are almost impossible to watch clearly, made worse because of a distinct lack of rhythm and pacing to their execution. While Gordon Chan has made his name with some impressive action films in his native Hong Kong, this will definitely be a black mark on his filmography. The King of Fighters is a ridiculous movie trying to elevate itself about its source material, and in doing so turns out far worse for it. If you do happen to find it lying around, it might be worth a watch for the sheer comedy of errors it turned itself into.
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