Starring Maggie Q, Sean Faris, Ray Park, Francoise Yip, Will Yun Lee
Fight Choreography by David Leitch
Directed by Gordon Chan
Video games translated into films don’t often work, and for a good reason. Video games are interactive for the time you play them, and for a moment you can control that avatar’s destiny. Film is watched, and you have no say in what happens next. Mortal Kombat got really close with the first film, and horribly far away with the second, and Tekken got the characters right, and made the fights more realistic, but lacked few real martial artists. Let’s not even get into either Street Fighter film as they both have lowered the bar so bad almost anything would be better. Except for this film.
The film begins as we meet Mai Shiranui (Maggie Q), an undercover CIA agent who has infiltrated an illegal tournament known and the King Of Fighters. She has a relationship with the former champ Iori Yagami, and they both attend a showing of some ancient artifacts that when brought together can wake a creature called the Orochi. Of course bringing all of the artifacts together let’s the bad guy have a one stop shopping outing, and Rugal Bernstein (Park) takes full advantage, bursting in and stealing the artifacts before using them to jump into the…wait for it…tournament dimension. Mai and Iori must convince Kyo Kusanagi to help them as his family line enables him to control one of the artifacts, the Kusanagi sword. Together with fellow agent Terry Bogard they venture into the alternate dimension to stop Rugal…
I can’t even type the above with a straight face. Without a doubt, this film is supremely stupid. Let’s start with this tournament dimension. So…the fighters get there by turning on their magical bluetooth headset? I mean, really? Yes, MK went to another dimension too, but at least they really explained how…magic. This? Bluetooth devices and a laptop can do it, and if you don’t have those grab three ancient artifacts and they’ll do the same job. They barely explain how any of it works, and it just comes off looking really dumb. None of the characters are anyone you truly care about, Mai is so mysterious you never find out much about her, Iori just stands and looks serious, and Kyo just looks this side of clueless, and don’t even get me started on Terry Bogard. I’m not a fan of the game, but I did play it when I was younger, and that happened to be my favorite character, whom in the game is like 18 years old. In this film he’s a middle aged CIA agent, who looks ridiculous when it comes time for him to dress like the video game version. Overall the acting is just this side of terrible from everyone involved, and Director Gordon Chan (Thunderbolt) should be ashamed of this effort. I wish I could single out one actor in this for something, and surprise, surprise, I will.
Dammit, man, what happened to you? After Star Wars I thought you would take the martial arts film world by storm with more exposure in a single film than most martial artists get, so what happened? I’ve actually seen proof you can act (no better or worse than Scott Adkins) and your moves are awesome, but you were never able to capitalize on your success. The best thing I’ve seen you in was a recent short film. Can someone get your ass into Undisputed 4?
The martial arts fights in this film are hilariously bad and the camerawork is dreadful on every one of them. It’s obvious that it’s meant to mask the lack of martial arts knowledge many of the stars have. Once again, can we stop having Hollywood actors who don’t know martial arts play martial artists? Can we not find a few that can passably act? The point of a martial arts film is…to watch martial arts. Like people who love musicals watch them to see the musical dance numbers. That’s the entire point of watching. Are there people in musicals who can’t sing and dance? Rarely. So why isn’t that applied to martial arts films in the USA? (Hong Kong has started down that route too, and look at their film quality now.)
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (0) Absolutely dreadful. No great fights of note, and none were shot well. I know kids who can make better fight scenes.
STUNTWORK: (2) If they did a good job, how could you tell with the editing?
STAR POWER: (7) Maggie Q is always nice to look at, and Ray Park is a lesser version of himself, and Will Yun Lee is okay, and it’s always great to see Francoise Yip.
FINAL GRADE: (3) There isn’t much more to be said about KOF except to avoid it at all costs. If you can turn it into a drinking game, then there may be some value.