Street Fighter Review
”Street Fighter: The Movie” was released in 1994 at the height of Sega/Nintendo mania as the battle raged to see who would win the console wars (it was pretty much a draw at the time but Nintendo seems to have won in the long run). Street Fighter II (Turbo and Championship Edition) and Mortal Kombat were also battling it out to see who would take the head to head beat 'em up crown. Mortal Kombat had the gore and cool finishing moves but Street Fighter was a lot more playable and so was more popular with gamers. The Capcom team, who developed Street Fighter, commissioned a movie to be made depicting the exploits of the game's characters. Not to be outdone, Acclaim (the Mortal Kombat camp) followed suit and released “Mortal Kombat the Movie”. I have to say that I rented “Mortal Kombat”on VHS (well I saw it at a birthday party) and it wasn't too bad, although that was about 13 years ago! I remember thinking it quite cool as a lot of the concepts of the game had been incorporated into the film. I did watch “Street Fighter” when it made its way onto terrestrial television and at the time I was not impressed. Something tells me that this movie has not gotten better with age.
“Street Fighter” was written and directed by Stephen E. De Souza, who had not directed a whole lot prior to this movie but had penned the scripts for the “Die Hard” movies and “Beverley Hills Cop III”. A simple and safe option would have been to adapt this movie straight from the game's plotline and stick with a tournament style format, perhaps something along the lines of “Enter the Dragon”. Unfortunately De Souza clearly had over confidence in his own abilities and chose instead to shoot a full storyline orientated movie that contains very little actual fisticuffs.
Also on board we've got the mighty Jean-Claude “Timecop” Van Damme (starring as Col. William Guile), who actually turned down the role of Jonny Cage in “Mortal Kombat” - another great loss for the movie going community. Even with a script of Oscar winning proportions, Van Damme could turn out a hammy performance but with “Street Fighter” containing some of the worst dialogue ever committed to celluloid, the muscles from Brussels has an absolute field day. Making matters worse, De Souza actually encourages Van Damme to “act”, as opposed to just doing the splits and giving people roundhouse kicks to the face (which is what he does best).Opposite Van Damme we have the sometimes magnificent Raul Julia (“Addams Family”) playing the demented warlord General M. Bison. Given the circumstances, and probably at the request of De Souza, Julia also hams it up significantly and does his utmost to give a ridiculously over the top performance, with more cape swooshing than Superman. It's even more of a shame to see Julia's talents wasted here as this was his last film before his death. Joining these two heavy weights are Kylie Minogue (“tiny Australian pop princess”) as Cammy, Ming Na (“Mulan”, “Joy Luck Club”) as Chun Li, and a host of other characters from the game played by actors I have never heard of!
The plotline to “Street Fighter” is very simplistic. Bison, the insane megalomaniac, with help from his sidekicks Zanghief (who does most of his acting by simply widening his eyes) and DeeJay (compete with appalling Jamaican accent), has taken control of the fictitious city of Shadaloo and is holding a bunch of Allied Nations (hmmm that sounds familiar) aid workers hostage. Demanding $20 billion for their release with plans to take over the world with his army of super mutants (under his Pax Bisonica), and build Bisonopolis, can anyone stand up to this invincible tyrant?! Enter Guile, Cammy and T-Hawk (who doesn't really do much) who, along with the entire A.N. force, mobilize to attack Bison's stronghold fortress, rescue Guile's best friend Charlie, and save the planet in the process. At this point I think De Souza realised that he had only used up seven of the game's characters and so created a number of ridiculous subplots to cram in as many of the game's stars as possible.
Ryu and Ken are wheeler dealer gun smuggler's, supplying the monocular Sagat and his right hand man; top cage fighter, Vega (complete with lame back flip and claw). Sagat is in turn dealing directly with Bison as the two undergo a power struggle and form and dissolve alliances throughout the movie. Chun Li, E. Honda and Balrog are working for GNT, a news channel reporting on the travesty that is occurring in Shadaloo as the world looks on in terror. Charlie is mutated into Blanka (who looks more like the 1970's Incredible Hulk from the TV show) under duress by Dr. Dahlsim, who are both under lock down by Bison. Needless to say as we plod towards the movies climax (well more like disappointing conclusion) all the “good” characters end up forming an alliance and fighting against the “bad” characters. The problem is that De Souza didn't really give much thought as to how he would realistically bring all the plotlines together and as a result the movie is very disjointed (or as we say in Irish: shite!).
The fight scenes throughout are laughable with some of the kicks and punches clearly not connecting coupled with sound effects straight from Batman the TV show. Guile's comedic leap from Blanka's mutation chamber near the end of the movie is ridiculous and the majority of the fight sequences are obviously single takes carelessly edited together. In fact for a movie that has both the words “street” and “fight” in its title there's not a whole lot of fighting actually on show. There are some passable shootouts and some average explosions but apart from that there's nothing else worth mentioning. Each character from the video game has three or four unique signature moves that are unfortunately missing from the movie with De Souza foolishly deciding to rely on the plotline and “acting” to keep the audience interested. What a big mistake. The acting on display has been bettered by Emmerdale and that's saying something. I can't think of one actor who was convincing in this movie, even Julia, whose performance is acceptable, manages to lose the plot slightly with his portrayal of the manic Bison. De Souza does try to include some elements of humor which may have worked if only the rest of the movie had not been so appalling.
I suppose that writing a screenplay around a bunch of pixilated characters might be a difficult task but the video games do give some character background, there are actually Street Fighter novels available that contain some passable storylines and “Mortal Kombat” didn't result in such a disastrous piece of film-making. It seems that this movie tries to be a bit more serious than its content will allow. With a movie that was aimed mainly at pubescent teenagers, and already had a huge audience waiting, a lot of cool fight sequences including dragon punches (Shōryū-ke), fireball punches (Hadōken)and tornado kicks (Tatsumaki-Senpū kyaku), strung together with a vague plot, would have kept everyone happy. A lot of characters in the movie do resemble the characters from the game but their sparse attempts at the games special moves look decidedly lame, as is the movie's finale with all characters appearing in their familiar video game garb. Guile manages to pull off a flash kick and Cammy does yell out “Thrust kick” at one stage but where are the fireballs and sonic booms? Unfortunately with a plot that attempts to bring Guile, Bison, Chun-Li et al. into the “real world”, coupled with some of the worst acting I have ever seen, Street Fighter does not even contain any unintentional hilarity to redeem itself. It's not surprising that De Souza had to forgo his salary to pay for his cast. I wonder will the up and coming “Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun Li” fare any better?