Action Movie Fanatix Review: Street Fighter

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Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Kylie Minogue, Simon Callow, Byron Mann, Roshan Seth, Wes Studi, Grand L. Bush, Peter Tuiasosopo, Jay Tavare, Andrew Bryniarski, Gregg Rainwater, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Robert Mammone, Kenya Sawada

Trainer / Fight Technician: Benny “The Jet” Urquidez

Director: Steven De Souza

1994  |  101 Minutes  |  PG-13

“You came from across the world to fight me, soldier.  Now’s your chance.” – M. Bison

Since its release Street Fighter, the movie, has been railed on by critics and video game fans alike.  It’s a little weird to me because I seem to remember enjoying it as a youngster.  But, then again, I have never really seen eye to eye with most critics.

Col. William Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) takes on General M. Bison (Raul Julia), a malevolent warlord who kidnaps a busload of Guile’s Allied Nations relief workers and holds them for ransom.

For the most part the characters look good.  Their nationalities appear to be correct (except Guile who sounds like Van Damme but sports a U.S. flag on the shoulder of his uniform), their in-game uniforms are adapted to have a military look and each are given appropriate hair/facial hair styles to match.  There are even some fun little gimmicks thrown in throughout the movie to remove a characters shirt, add boxing gloves, etc. to bring their look even closer to their video game personas’.

Aside from not really sounding like an American soldier, Van Damme works for Guile.

I kind of hate the term “chew scenery” but I can’t think of anyone who better represents that term than Raul Julia does as M. Bison in Street Fighter.  He’s really quite awesome as the Shadaloo warlord.

I find the rest of the characters to be reasonably respectable interpretations of their video game counterparts.  Chun Li is turned into a reporter, E. Honda and Balrog are on her camera crew and Blanka is a creation of M. Bison’s imprisoned mad scientist Dr. Dhalsim.

Vega’s character is probably the most accurately portrayed.  He is a cage fighter, ladies love him and he has his awesome Wolverine claws.  He’s pretty awesome.

And the one character that was screwed up the most was one of my favorite characters to be in the game… Blanka.  Like I said, he was an experiment by Dhalsim, which I can live with.  To be fair, he is a tough character to pull off on screen but he just looks wrong.  The actor playing him was a pretty big guy but Blanka needs to be huge and hunched over.  Very animalistic.  This guy stood straight up the entire time and just grunted a lot to prove that he was feral.  Throw some bad makeup and hair on top of all that and you have my #1 disappointment with the Street Fighter movie.  They could have at least had him jump up onto a guy’s shoulders and bite his head a few times.  Come on!

Street Fighter (the movie) is really to be thought of as a reimagining of the Street Fighter characters and their stories.  My statement is not meant to be an excuse for what the Street Fighter movie turned out to be, but going in with that mindset makes for a more enjoyable experience.

There really isn’t much one-on-one combat which would have been a pretty important thing to incorporate for a fighting game franchise even if they were going for a reimagining. Chun-Li briefly fights Bison but it is barely worth mentioning.  Then, of course, Guile and Bison have their showdown right at the very end which is far and away the best part of the movie.  This fight is also one of the few places where moves from the game are incorporated into the movie.  Any other hand-to-hand fighting that takes place is no more than a couple punches, kicks or throws before moving on.

The vast majority of the action is pseudo-military, G.I. Joe type stuff… which I actually found to be quite fun but I can understand why some don’t feel that it was the appropriate use of the franchise.

I just have to get this off my chest since we’re talking Street Fighter…  Was there anything worse than finally getting to play Street Fighter II after having to watch the big kids hog the arcade machine only to have yet another big kid come over and interrupt your game and put a whooping on you like you weren’t even capable of putting on a computer?   Ahhhh, the Street Fighter memories…

Anyway, I still found that I really enjoyed Street Fighter, even with so many years removed from my arcade game obsessions.  It’s just a fun movie, not to be taken too seriously.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time I pull it out of its DVD case for another viewing.

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