Friday, June 13, 2014

River City Rumble: Part Two

When we left our two hapless high school students, they had fought their way across a good chunk of River City beating up some gangs with the worst names ever conceived by man.  The two had the knowledge of where Ryan's girlfriend was being held, but instead of going there to get their butts beaten down by the two guys who took out Ryan without any effort at the beginning, they decide to continue fighting their way up the ladder because...  well, because of reasons, I guess.

So with the two now split up, how well will they fare by themselves?

Not well.

While Alex gets his hide handed to him by a guy named "Blade" who neither wields a knife or gets referred to as "The Daywalker" by vampires, Ryan tries to beat information out of "The Squid" before needing to face a thug named "Mojo."

We also get a glimpse of the world's most bad ass old woman walking home with her groceries, completely unmolested by gangs that have "taken over the city."

Mojo throws Ryan around until Ryan attempts to hide behind a column and gets "drawn in" to it.  It's really the only way I can think of describing it.  Anyway, he vanishes, leaving a very puzzled and disappointed Mojo, who was prepared to do his best impression of "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan on him.

Alex wakes up back at the restaurant at the (not) mall, where apparently some bad guys dropped him off.  Having now "respawned," Alex is informed by Jill that not only is he lucky to be alive, but that she also bought him some swordfish from a sushi bar.

I'm not sure I'd trust any sushi from River City.

However, eating sushi does provide a few power-ups, such as "Fists +4" and other attributes, so Alex is off to once again face Blade.  Ryan, meanwhile, finds himself in a "secret shop" full of mystical secrets.  There, he's able to pick up an ancient tome for the low, low price of "nothing."  The tome contains a whole series of ancient mystical combat secrets.

With their new and improved abilities, Alex and Ryan are able to make quick work of their opponents.  As for the third one, "Turk," well, he gets drive-by 8-bit ninja'd.

Together, Alex and Ryan face down the leader of the "Zombie" gang, named "Thor."  It's actually a pretty decent fight, with the tide of battle going back and forth.  However, a slip-up by Alex leaves him and Ryan squabbling as they leave the "factory stage."

We jump to a pretty fun scene where we see some of the previously defeated goons talking shop and seeing who came closest to victory.  There's a neat little homage to Batman: The Animated Series, but when someone comes running in saying that Alex and Ryan are fighting each other, they all jump up and take off to watch.

The fight is (eventually) interrupted by the waitress Jill, who actually makes a pretty good point about how ridiculous it is that all of these "high school kid" gang members (some with extremely well-developed facial hair) are serving a boss they never met and has done nothing for them but have them fight people.  There's a speech about what Alex and Ryan are doing being for the "better good of the city."

And yet, despite the fact that all of these pretty good fighters have now realized that serving a guy named "Slick" isn't the way, none of them volunteer to help Alex and Ryan defeat the rest of the gang.

Motivational fail.

So, back to the high school (where they were informed was the location of Ryan's girlfriend about 30 minutes ago), the two have to deal with another gang called "the plague."  They once again get their butts handed to them for several minutes, until Ryan remembers he bought a whole bunch of "ultimate fighting secrets" and unleashes the fury of STONE HANDS.

I've seen worse special effects (*cough*AvatartheLastAirbendermovie*cough*).

Ryan actually punches the boss character's head so hard it explodes (providing us with the only real gore we've seen so far), and the two get to the final "stage" of the film.  Which is when Slick makes his dramatic appearance.

Yeah, um, no.  A guy in a sport coat and ninja mask shouldn't be that big a deal.

So, who is the big bad guy that kidnapped Ryan's girlfriend, unleashed gangs upon the city, and wears the exact same red shirt previously worn by their friend Simon?


Oh, wait, no, it's Simon again.  Man, didn't see that coming.

Simon unleashes the twins upon Alex and Ryan, and we get some of the better combat moves shown so far in this movie.  We get an actual spin-kick and some impressive jumps as Alex and Ryan proceed to lose against the two.  Things look pretty bleak.  Who could possibly save them?

Jill?  Please.

The assembled forces of the previous gangs, out for revenge against a leader who made them get their butts kicked?  That would've been fun, but no.

Jimmy and Billy Lee from Double Dragon?  That'd be a pretty huge cop-out, wouldn't i-

Oh snap.  Things just got real.

The Lee brothers take down the twins with little effort, leading to a final face-off between Ryan and Simon.  Simon flexes and prepares himself for an epic battle.  Ryan...picks up Alex's limp body and throws it at Simon.

And...that's pretty much the end of it, really.

No, really, that's it.  Simon swears revenge as Alex and Ryan walk off., um, yeah, I guess we break it down now.  Let's start with the bad first, this time.

The Bad:

The film is obviously "amateur hour."  Nobody here is a professional actor, as near as I can tell.  As a fan movie, it shows its lack of budget and trained talent.  Characters a long way away have faint voices as they yell to the camera, lighting isn't great, and people sometimes get caught in the shot who shouldn't be there.

The storyline is rather simple ("guys beat up other guys to rescue girl") but considering it's based on the classic 8-bit fighters, I can't give it too much flak for that.  It did take some rather bizarre twists along the way, and a few side comments about what happened to any of the actual police forces in the city would have been nice.  Even if it's just a simple "oh yeah, the Expendables gang is causing trouble downtown to keep the police busy" or "someone called in a bomb threat."

The Good:

All that being said, this project was a labor of love, and it shows.  I know the makers didn't have a large budget going into this, so being able to see what they did with the resources they had makes it pretty impressive.  Location shoots, choreographing fights, writing dialogue, none of it is simple stuff, and the fact these people were able to make this at all is a high achievement for them.

Also, as an homage to classic 8-bit fighting games and 90's pop culture references ("It's Cindy!"  "A little too Cindy!"), it wears its love on its shoulder, and I can't fault it for that one bit.  Between having each gang be color-coded, having the same actors show up with slightly different "designs" is a nice call-back to the limitations of the systems back then.  There being actual "boss fights" as well as nods to things like "continuing" after losing or having weird Easter Eggs such as the magic shop all show just how much these people love the source material.

The only thing missing was having someone punch an oil barrel and a whole, roasted turkey come flying out of it.


Yeah, the dialogue is hokey, the shooting isn't clean, and there's more space between a puncher's fist and a victim's face than between two kids at a Catholic school dance, but the things that would normally bother me just don't while I watch this.  In fact, in this it's all pretty charming.

Is it better than Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, as advertised?  Well, no.  But then, that movie had the budget, cast, and broader humor to help it connect more to the audience.  The movie wasn't as good as the books, but I think it slightly edges this film out simply in it being a more professional work.

But, that isn't to say this isn't good.  It is good.  As a first film made by these guys, they did all right.

Sadly, it appears the studio is closing in 2015 after producing five films and a lot of other projects.  I wish the guys the best in wherever their lives take them, and feel bad that it took me too long to discover their work.

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