Street Fighter (1994)

Original Cinema 1-Sheet Poster - Movie Film Posters
Honestly, this poster looks like Bison is cruising in his floating pimpmobile in front of a billboard advertising a Van Damme picture.

“Get ready for the ultimate street fight!”

Directed by Steven E. de Souza
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Kylie Minogue, Byron Mann and Wes Studi

In the South-East Asian republic of Shadaloo, an Allied Nations peacekeeping force commanded by Colonel Guile (Van Damme) is apparently acting as some sort of unilateral authority, ostensibly to battle the renegade warlord M Bison (Julia), but seemingly spending more of their time being rude to journalists like Chung-Li Zhang (Wen) and enforcing a curfew on the largely faceless citizens of Shadaloo City.

Guile uses Zhang’s broadcast to call out Bison so his aide, Cammy (Minogue) can try to track him. When that fails, he sets up two con men arrested in a curfew sweep – Ken (Chapa) and Ryu (Mann) – to escape custody alongside arms dealer Sagat (Studi) and so make contact with Bison. Zhang also tracks them and attempts to assassinate Bison with a truck bomb, but Ken and Ryu warn him in order to allow Guile to track them to Bison’s HQ, since apparently arresting him while he’s out from behind his lines with a small security force would be too difficult.

Zhang and her team, and Ken and Ryu, all end up captured as Guile defies the orders of an AN official (Simon Callow) and attacks. Captive scientist Dhalsim (Roshan Seth) messes with the brainwashing of Carlos Blanca (Robert Mammone), an AN soldier and Guile’s hetero lifemate, and they bust out. Guile fights Bison, Bison starts floating, things explode and everyone goes home.

Yay!

What’s wrong with it?

While there are some decent performances (Raul Julia, you magnificent bastard) most of the acting is at best passable. Minogue struggles with a British accent and serious, hard core performer Ming-Na Wen seems almost surprised that she has lines to speak.

Watching this, it actually seems hard to remember when there was a time when people believed Van Damme could carry a film, although even the Muscles from Brussels is not well served by this material.

The AN are the most obnoxious bunch of playground bullies ever to besmirch the world stage, running roughshod over local authority and indulging in personal vendettas over the protestations of their own superiors. Mind you, the superiors are tossers as well.

"We believe that we can deal with Bison. Well, actually we felt that we needed
“We believe that we can deal with Bison. Well, actually we felt that we needed a snotty British official at this point in the movie, whether it made sense or not.”

Seriously; the AN want to deal with M Bison, a man whose goal is to build a city called Bisonopolis, unite the world under the Pax Bisonica and create the perfect genetic soldier? And who has a skull on his cap.

For a Street Fighter movie, there are precious few streets, and actually fairly little fighting.

Bison takes a bunch of hostages and locks them away where we never really see them at all. It’s hard to really feel for them when all we know is that they were aid workers and one of them is a Wilhelm.

What’s right with it?

"Are we the baddies?"
“Are we the baddies?”

Raul Julia’s Bison is so much more than the material deserves.

Zangief! He’s so awesome. The byplay between Bison’s delusional yet charismatic speeches and Zangief’s heartfelt devotion to the cause are just wonderful.

How bad is it really?

Basically, Street Fighter‘s failing is that it has absolutely no idea what it wants to be. The tone and content are all over the shop, with Van Damme apparently going for some sort of sincerity, while Bison is changing into his Fascist chic smoking jacket and casual, after dinner peaked cap. Compare and contrast Mortal Kombat, which for all its flaws decided what it wanted to be and went balls to the wall. There’s an air of playing it safe about Street Fighter which is ultimately worse than a hot mess.

Which is not to say that there is no element of hot mess involved.
Which is not to say that there is no element of hot mess involved.

Best bit (if such there is)?

As the baddies watch on a television, a truck full of guns and dynamite rolls towards the tent they are all standing in. Zangief’s eyes widen in horror and he yells: “Quick! Change the channel!” If only the rest of the film were more like that.

What’s up with…?

  • Chung-li’s team? They grin at Bison as they roll dynamite towards him, but they’re supposed to hate him. Also, how does sabotaging Honda and Balrog’s sports careers even compare to raiding Chung-Li’s village and having her father shot?
  • The Allied Nations? Why is the commander of a peacekeeping force acting as chief of police and de facto military governor of Shadloo City?
  • Blanka and Dhalsim? If you don’t want whacky, paranormal woodge in your film, just leave it out; don’t go half-arsed genetic bullshit.
  • Guile’s ‘we can go home now’ speech? It’s only thanks to Snow White and the Huntsman that I can’t consider this the worst rallying speech in history.
"First up, birthdays..."
Okay, I feel like I’m four years old, because I look at this and all I can think is that Guile just let one off. Just look at Cammy and T. Hawk’s faces.

Ratings

Production values – Cheap as chips. As the invisible attack boat speeds along the river, we cut from radar installations to the boat’s guns to explosions, but never see an actual installation explode. Most damningly, the fights aren’t actually very good. 16
Dialogue and performances – Well, this is a mixed bag, with a wide range of performers (Van Damme at the bottom, Julia and smaller players like Studi and Seth at the top) speaking lines which range from witty to beyond banal. 12
Plot and execution – The plot is complete tosh, designed to string together a series of fight scenes, most of which don’t actually end up as fight scenes. 15
Randomness – Blanka is a much-loved character from the games, but makes no sense here. Guile is easily the worst commander in military history, and the AN official’s appearance makes no sense11
Waste of potential – Okay, so let’s get some streets and have people fight in them. How is that difficult? 12

Overall 66%

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