Oh the things that are wrong with King of Fighters. Actors speak without moving their lips, characters swap nationalities as they grow up, video game-based storylines are tossed to the wayside, edits are randomly placed, transferring between dimensional planes is loosely explained, and the cinematography is nauseating.

Gordon Chan is a capable director of martial arts punch-fests, but maybe budgetary constraints forced him into a stylistic corner. Maybe his tripod was broken. Maybe every single shot sits at an angle because the intent is to make everything look awkward and distract from the pitiful set design. The latter is probably the winner.

Whatever the case, it’s band-aid on a movie that needs a full body cast. Viewers might need more medical care than that, more so if they’re if they’re fans of the game franchise. Triple writing credits conceive a narrative baseless in logic or place, world class combatants from around the world summoned into a parallel dimension by way of Bluetooth headsets (?) for… fun? Fame? Fortune? It’s never clear.

General fights aside, Ray Park steps in as uber-martial artist Rugal with an actual purpose. He deserves to win just for having a reason to be, planning to merge the real world and the alternate so he can be king. Apparently democracy is wiped clean when dimensions clash. In step a band of heroes, comprised of fighters who are lucky enough to be living near each other, to foil the only thing in the movie that makes sense.

Fight scenes, when not bordering on the ludicrous (including a Casey Jones-like street hockey fiasco) come across with vibrancy and intensity. At least that’s something. This isn’t a movie afraid to live in the realm of the fantastical, fists and feet lighting into multi-colored flames to accentuate impact. Though the film is short on fireballs and wickedly over-the-top special moves, there’s some interest in blending the interactive and passive mediums, even if it’s a stale attempt.

King of Fighters opens on a brawl, important since it’s soon dying down into a muddled mixture of exposition, drawn out dialogue, and endless banter. Much of this clearly minimal budget is spent capturing the multi-tiered finale, and by then this one is a wash. With so little invested in the characters, who cares if they talk about destiny when the only thing they should be doing is punching each other? [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Clearly captured digitally, King of Fighters comes across as a sharp, clear, and at times lightly detailed piece. Digital intrusions include some quick-to-pass banding and a spot of noise, both minimalist faults. Even in the dim streets that close the film, noise is never a factor. There’s a sheen over this one that helps it succeed and make it appear classier than it is.

Black levels conform to a standard and stick with it, losing out on a single shot near the front of the film inside an auditorium. That finale, drenched in spotty lighting, produces elegant depth with regards to its blacks, and crush is negated to only a handful of set-ups. Shadow detail is held in high regard here.

Medium shots collapse under scrutiny, actors given a plastic-like facade that doesn’t mix with the crispness of the close-ups. While some will fall to focal nuances, most zoomed viewpoints will capture an intense level of definition, pores and other features relying on high-fidelity to come through brilliant here. It’s pristine HD material at its peak, floundering during its lows.

Saturation will waver, King of Fighters pushed into a slightly pale, faded appearance in “reality,” something slightly more jazzed up during the fights. Primaries are tossed around freely, landing into an familiar pile of orange and teal for the for the street-level finish. Flesh tones will warm without turning offensive, tinted by the nature of the light around them. Well Go’s AVC encode captures all of this without any visible image break-up, swift kicks managed gracefully. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Something is seriously wrong with this DTS-HD mix, and whether it’s Well Go’s doing or the source material isn’t clear. It has nothing to do with the “you can’t be serious” dubbing, so flagrant it’s staggering a mixer thought no one would notice. The problem is in how the dialogue is presented, each line stretching left to right across the stereos and through the center. It’s not contained to one channel, and the effect exaggerates itself unnaturally whenever it tries to pass off movement.

Maybe it’s notable simply due to how dreadfully dull the design is in the first place. Punches and kicks may pound on the low-end a little when they connect, yet there’s minimal attempt to let them escape the center… except for their cloned stereos. Nothing is positioned with any specific motion. Even the surrounds fail to hold interest, apparently walking out of this non-union job in protest before it started.

King of Fighters has plenty of potential, from an early gun fight that feels randomized to its firey finish will rolling balls of flame. None of it catches or travels, at least not with any specific sense of accuracy. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Audio]

Well Go’s sole extra is a trailer for the main feature. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]


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