Tuesday Terribles: The King of Fighters (2010)

Tuesday Terribles is one of our Periodicals, which we started because of our love for Asian cinema. A new Tuesday Terribles will be posted every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

Tuesday Terribles will be similar to what a regular film review should be, except we won’t give a final grade or score. Actually, as the series name suggests, pretty much all the movies here are pretty bad and worth joking about. There will be a lot of laughter, cringing, and “they really made this” reactions, but all in good fun.

With that being said, it’s time to shriek at some truly horrible Asian films!

This week’s Tuesday Terrible: The King of Fighters

Quick Notes

  • The King of Fighters is the live-action adaptation of the hit fighting game series of the same name. It’s easy for the film to trick you otherwise.
  • The film was directed by Gordon Chan, who was renowned for sitting in the director’s chair for great martial arts films such as Fist of Legend, King of Beggars, and Painted Skin (which was once featured as a Friday Flick). Oh, but then again, he also gave us The Four, which was featured as a Tuesday Terrible.
  • David Leitch, who played Terry Bogard, also served as the film’s action choreographer.
  • As one would expect, the film was released straight to DVD.

Enter the tournament


The King of Fighters tournament invites the strongest fighters to compete, sending them into another dimension where their full potential can be brought out. Mai Shiranui (Maggie Q) is one of the competitors, and is also an undercover CIA operative sent in by Terry Bogard (David Leitch) to infiltrate the organization of Chizuru Kagura (Francoise Yip), the host of the tournament.

One day, while attending an event at a museum, Mai, her boyfriend Iori Yagami (Will Yun Lee), and Chizuru are powerless to stop a man named Rugal (Ray Park) from stealing the Kagura Mirror, the Yagami Necklace and the Kusanagi Sword — three ancient relics from three powerful clans. Rugal uses the power of the three relics to escape into the tournament dimension. However, once entering the dimension, he discovers that the sword is a fake, leaving it behind.

Rugal starts to invite fighters from around the world, leading them to slaughter and letting the body count stack. It’s all a part of his plan of merging the tournament dimension, where he deems himself the King of Fighters, with the real one.

Standing in his way are Chizuru, Mai, Terry, and Iori. But first, they must locate the real Kusanagi Sword, which is being kept by Saisyu Kusanagi (Hiro Kanagawa). But as it turns out, Saisyu is in a catatonic mental state. They meet his son Kyo (Sean Faris), the reluctant heir to the Kusanagi clan, who seeks revenge against Rugal for putting his father into his current mental state.

A few words


The King of Fighters is the bi-product of filmmakers and producers attempting to bank on a market using source material that they know nothing about…which applies for the good majority of video game adaptations, sadly.

As an adaptation, there are so many things wrong or missing. The cast totally misses the point, for one. Mai is not the voluptuous ninja she once was. Kyo is as much Japanese as he is black. Terry gained about twenty years in age and is apparently very bad at cosplay. Rugal lost roughly half of his height…we can go on and on.

However, I believe in the fairness in judging a film based on what it is, rather than what it’s adapted from. It gives the film a fair fight, as a lot of times changes from the source material are needed in order for it to make sense as a film.

That being said, it’s no wonder why it has a current standing of 3/10 on IMDB.

The Three Terribles

1. Kyo Kusanagi


Okay, I promised not to judge this film as an adaptation, but I’m going to break that promise for a second just to talk about the lead character, Kyo. In the King of Fighters game series, the iconic character is a representative of the Japan team and is often described as having a fiery personality. However in the film, Kyo loses the cockiness as if he got neutered, and overall loses much of his Asian heritage and personality.

Wait, I lied. They turned him half-Japanese. It’s funny because the actor they used to portray Kyo as a child is clearly Asian, but as soon as he got older and turned into Sean Faris, he loses any visible Asian traits. Call me crazy, but it seems to to follow the common story of having a lead white actor among a pool of non-white supporting ones. Who really knows why they do this? Maybe it’s to appeal to what the producers think the main demographic of fans is. Maybe having a lead Asian actor doesn’t grant enough star power in the West.

They also made it so that Kyo relied on using a sword to defeat bad guys instead of his Kenpo. That’s some great attention to detail paid when examining the source material.

2. Rugal’s ambition and methods


Rugal aims to merge the tournament dimension with the real world. The reason is because while in the tournament dimension, a fighter’s abilities are amplified, allowing them to do things they can’t normally do in real life, as if playing a video game. Rugal plans on accomplishing this feat by using the power of the Orochi, a snake-like entity shown floating around the tournament dimension.

The thing is, it’s not really clear why Rugal is doing what he’s doing. For most of the story, he’s trying to merge the dimensions, but for some he’s very obsessive with obtaining the King of Fighters title — something that seems to have very little to do with the goals he wants to accomplish. Also, how exactly the Orochi’s power will make him able to fulfill his goals is not really explained.

Rugal’s powers are a bit random. Apparently sometimes, he can switch outfits and transform into a hockey player. Also, he has the power to make women his slaves by kissing them. The women even make phone calls to other tournament competitors (who they have on speed dial somehow) and assure them that if they compete against Rugal, they will have a good time and enjoy themselves.

But maybe we’re asking too much by saying “so-and-so isn’t really explained” or “this-and-that isn’t really clear”, when instead we should be thinking…

3. The premise was doomed to being with


Admit it. Most video games don’t have stories and/or characters that would not seem out of place in a live-action setting. Unless you go all out and try to make things picture perfect, as the Ace Attorney live-action did, most things will just seem awkward. Let’s take a look at some of the characters featured in the film’s video game counterparts:

Mai Shiranui, a lazily clothed ninja whose bust bounces more than a basketball, and fights by throwing around fans and setting her clothes on fire.
Terry Bogard, a street fighting brawler sporting a trucker cap bent on vengeance against the man who murdered his father.
Kyo Kusanagi, a cocky Japanese high school delinquent who fights by setting his fists on fire.
Iori Yagami, a brawler dressed like a worker in a host club whose bloodline is cursed to die young in exchange for demonic power.

The point is, the characters assembled in the games are meant to come from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, and archetypes in order to appeal to players of different tastes. Throw them in a live-action film, in which things call for more structure in the conceptualizing of characters and story (and even a bit more realism in everyone’s appearances), and everything will seem a bit chaotic.

The film attempted to streamline everything by changing around, well, everything, but in effect lost focus in its attempt to adapt the source material. As a result, we have a fighting game adaptation that ranks below even the likes of Street Fighter.

Watch this film…

…if you like to see classic video games butchered by filmmakers who have never played them.

Ray Arcega

Follow Ray on Twitter and chat with a fellow cinema nut. He also tweets about tokusatsu, assorted geekery, and life and adventures in Japanland.

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