Video Game Movies: Street Fighter (1994)
There was part of me secretly hoping that Street Fighter would age better than expected or that I’d appreciate the film more as an adult. Nope, it’s worse, way worse. Let’s dive into what made Street Fighter an absolute train wreck of a videogame adaptation.
Street Fighter was written and directed by Steven E. de Souza. Now, this guy had writing credits for Die Hard, Commando and The Running Man, so no stranger to action. So what went wrong? Was the move to writing ‘and’ directing a bit too much?
Let’s delve into the story. You’d be forgiven in thinking there was going to be Street Fighting in Street Fighter, or some kind of Tournament. Nope, we get treated to a plot where mad warlord M. Bison, hauled up in his jungle fortress somewhere within the southeast asian city of Shadaloo is threatening to kill hostages unless Colonel Guile delivers a ransom of $20 Billion dollars. This sets up the ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ sides of the film from the start as Guile, along with other notable Street Fighter characters, plan to infiltrate and attack Bison along with his side of notable cohorts.
Now I actually saw this in the cinema at a special pre-release screening. I remember being so excited as I was a massive Street Fighter 2 fan. With this plot setup, how could I be disappointed? Sure, they’re playing liberties with the story, but won’t it be cool to see these characters on-screen?
That’s the problem. The character’s are so damn week. Most of them are just there so you point at the screen and shout OMGZ it’s T-Hawk. They may as well walk across the screen and just wave. It’s a joke. The film is just a list of checkboxes that you can tick off throughout.
Let’s continue with the plot. There’s a whole mini plot about Guile staging his death so he can find out the exact location of where Bison is, but it’s awfully tedious, so let’s skip to the last act. So Guile sets off in his stealth boat followed by his army and makes an attack on Bison’s fortress. From here the actual fighting starts. It’s absolutely pitiful, but now’s a good time to go over all those beloved characters.
The main ‘good guy’, Colonel Guile is played with just the most inexplicably bizarre performance by Jean-Claude Van Damme. He fails to deliver any line at all, most of the time overly lingering on weirdly delivered punchlines. He’s sexist, basically coming onto anyone in a dress and just looks drunk. Remember that scene in Kickboxer where he drunkenly fights in the bar? Imagine that for a whole film. It’s like he just doesn’t care, he’s getting paid. (You got… paid??). There’s one scene in particular which is excruciatingly bad where he gives a speech to rally up his men. It’s so mono and sped through, you’re so aghast at how it was actually given the A-OK.
But does he do a move? No sonic booms or flash kicks, just those Van Damme Round houses we’ve all come to love.
Let’s just get this out of the way, Raúl Juliá does a good job in the movie. I’m not sure if it’s a good M. Bison, but he’s definitely working for his pay cheque. He’s actually quite funny with his ‘Bison dollar’ Megalomania, but you can’t help but feel bad that this was his last theatrical role before he left us. He absolutely steals whatever there is to steal from the film with this hilarious interaction with Chun Li.
But does he do a move? Yeah kind of, he sort of does the Psycho Crusher thing at the end when facing Guile, albeit incredibly slowly. Honestly, it’s like a steam roller coming toward you – YOU HAVE THE TIME TO MOVE GUILE!
Another half decent character portrayed by Ming-Na Wen. She initially starts out as a TV presenter reporting on the unfolding events but eventually we find out she’s also out for Bison’s blood. As Chun Li, Ming-Na Wen is surprisingly good, you can’t really fault her and she’s probably the most interesting of the ‘good guys’. It makes me wonder if this was some sort of motivation for the eventual stand alone Chun Li movie that came out a few years back.
But does she do a move? Yeah, she does a decent flying kick right into an unsuspecting Bison. As we’re here at this scene I have to mention just how bad the editing is as her friends come in shouting “We’re coming Li!”. It takes her ages to turn around, giving Bison way too long to get out of there. What a way to ruin a half decent action scene!
RYU and KEN
So the characters of Ryu and Ken are pretty much Street Fighter to most people. Here they may as well be Ant and Dec. They’re portrayed as travelling con artists, nothing like their gaming counterparts. One of the biggest upsets for me is early on where Ryu and Vega are squaring off in a cage match (oooh like the game) only to have it be interrupted by (drunken) Guile. That could have been worth a watch.
But do they do a move? Squaring off against Sagat and Vega, Ken kind of does an uppercut. It’s not even nearly a Shoryuken (dragon punch) but you get that’s what they were trying to do by how they framed the scene. Ryu pulls off a Hadouken (fireball) at close proximity. Nobody explains where that comes from, they just throw it in to tick a box. Oh and then there’s Ryu doing a Tatsumaki (hurricane kick). It looks forced and weird.
E- HONDA & BALROG
So former sumo wrestler E-Honda, and boxer, Balrog are working with Chun Li to try and get at Bison. They’re ok at best, both adding some much needed comedy to the ‘good guy’ side of the cast. I haven’t got much of a problem with them, they slot in and get referenced I suppose. The actors playing them do a decent job and certainly look the part – *looks at Balrog’s hair*. Factoid – The guy playing Balrog was actually one of the ‘My Johnson, not related’ FBI guys in Die Hard.
But do they do a move? E-Honda does the Hundred Hand Slap! Well, it’s actually about 8 slaps. Balrog er.. throws his punches!
VEGA & SAGAT
Vega hardly speaks but doesn’t have to, he looks ok. He has the mask, the hair (although dark brown) and an awesome looking claw. Interesting fact, Jay Tavare who plays Vega also voiced Code Talker in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Sagat is bald CHECK, has an eye patch CHECK and Tiny HUH? Seriously Sagat is tiny in this. In the game he’s huge, it’s one his main characteristics. Also, he’s played by Wes Studi and it’s hard to shake that he played the main villain, Magua (brilliantly) in The Last of the Mohicans. He seems really wasted here.
But do they do a move? Vega does some flying kicks, rolls and slicing which are y’know, expected but feel a bit out of place. Sagat does some damage to Ryu with his knee a few times.
D-JAY & ZANGIEF
D-Jay looks the part but he works in IT. Moving on…
Zangief probably has the most one liners in the entire film and they land surprisingly well. He also looks the closest to the character than any other so it’s hard to argue with the portrayal here, basically it’s a good Zangief.
But do they do a move? There’s a really weird homage to Godzilla when Zangief takes on E-Honda. That do? Didn’t think so.
DHALSIM & CHARLIE.. I mean BLANCA
I could go on and on about the fact they took Guile’s friend Charlie (yeah Charlie Nash) and turned him into Blanca using some kind of mutant genetics concoction by ‘Dr’ Dhalsim BUT instead just look at the state of Blanca instead. LOOK AT THE STATE OF HIM.
The Dhalsim story is weird too. He sort of helps Blanca by interrupting his mind control process with videos of Martin Luther king and children’s parties, gets electrocuted, shows up at the end with no hair (seriously, what happened to his hair?!) and makes some sort of out of place ‘I need to atone for my sins’ speech.
But do they do a move? Not really. It looks like Blanca electrocutes someone but I can’t be sure. Dhalsim also disappears at the end nowhere to be seen.
OK there are also other characters in the film that take a serious B listing to the rosta. For instance Kylie Minogue as Cammy says about five words in the whole film in a hammy British accent. However it’s T-Hawk who steals the award. Here’s how bad T-Hawk is. You don’t even know it’s T-Hawk until Guile calls to him in the last act of the film. So EVEN THOUGH he’s been at Guile’s side all the way through, you only know it’s him at the end. Well at least that’s when I found out. It’s so throw away it’s ridiculous.
What happens in the end? Bison is defeated (or is he???) and the heroes all go outside and jump in the air etc, just look at the picture up top. Or don’t.
So, what could have been better? Well, for me it should have been played out in a tournament. A year later that’s pretty much how Mortal Kombat worked and truth be told, that wasn’t too bad a movie. Stick to a tournament, good choreography and good designs. Keep the humour as Street Fighter does has its funny moments. More focus? Yes please. We don’t need to flesh out ten characters, just a few. I’ve yet to see Assassin’s Fist which centres around Ken and Ryu but I’ve heard good things, so go and check that out before this again.