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Saturday, August 13, 2011

King of Chinatown: Review

Saturday, August 13, 2011 Posted by Unknown , , No comments

King of Chinatown is marketed as the story of Justin Wong, one of the brightest starts in the fighting game community, and his hope to not only to be the best in the video game community but also to survive off of a hobby. What the trailers and movie posters don't reveal is that although the story is very much about Justin it is also about his former manager, "Triforce", who represents the brand Empire Arcadia. In the two year span of the film, we see the inner workings of Triforce and Justin's business and personal relationship as well as the eventual collapse.

What I enjoyed most about King of Chinatown was the amount of heart that the entire team put into the production. It is certainly a documentary, but it feels like an equal amount of story and plot was considered when director, Calvin Theobald, and editor, Jordan Levinson, began working on the film. Justin is portrayed as more than just a nerd or the man that controls "Rufus" (one of Wong's most popular picks in Street Fighter 4). He is a struggling kid that is thrown into the video game world to not only earn enough money to support his own life but that of Empire Arcadia, their entire team of players, and finally his aunt. The reveal about his aunt is easily the most humanizing moment of the film, and one that turned the film from a documentary about one of my favorite past times to something that struck a deeply emotional cord.

However, every plot must have a hero and a villain, and if Justin is portrayed as the protagonist then Isaiah TriForce Johnson is definitely spun as the villain. In almost every scene that Triforce is in, he comes off as a leech that uses Justin in order to promote the Empire Arcadia brand and reach success. I do not know Triforce as a person, but his character seems far less developed in comparison to Wong. Although there are moments where he gives insight on his own past to possibly redeem himself, he is framed as far too evil to the point where the documentary started feeling like a smear campaign.

Along with the attack on Triforce, the music also really hurt the film. It was loud rock with bits of electronica that did not sit well with the tone of the movie. If the story was meant to be an insight onto a video game player I would have loved some throwbacks to the 8-bit era or just some light music for the introspective moments.

Neither of these factors should prevent someone from watching the movie especially since the documentary is supposed to be Justin's story and his attempt to become the titular King of Chinatown. Although the movie hiccups when it comes to honesty and music, it is still an enjoyable film that warrants a watch from fighting enthusiasts and interested-on-lookers alike.