Steven E. de Souza
Jean-Claude Van Damme - Colonel William F. Guile
Raul Julia - General M. Bison
Ming Na Wen - Chun Li Zang
Byron Mann - Ryu Koshi
Damian Chapa - Ken Masters
Wes Studi - Victor Sagat
Kylie Minogue - Lieutenant Cammy
Peter Navy Tuiasosopo - Edmund Honda
Andrew Bryniarski - Zangief
Grand L. Bush - Balrog
Roshan Seth - Dhalsim
Jay Tavare - Vega
Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. - Dee Jay
Robert Mammone - Carlos "Charlie" Blanka
Genre - Action/Science Fiction/Martial Arts/Video Games
Running Time - 101 Minutes
Back when arcade machines were still popular, I don't think I spent more quarters on any game as I did on Street Fighter II. Capcom's premier fighting game was, and still is, an addictive button-mashing fun time. I'm not sure how much money I spent playing Street Fighter II at the arcades. I loved feeling that accomplishment of trying to get to M. Bison, when all of a sudden another player would step in and kick my ass. Bastard. But thankfully, I was able to buy Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo, as well as Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, as well as Street Fighter II: Turbo. I was kind of obsessed with fighting games in general, but Street Fighter II was my jam. Hell, I still enjoy these games, although I prefer IV over Third Strike and Alpha.
With anything that captures the culture's attention, Hollywood has to stick their unnecessary nose in and try to milk it through some film franchise. We saw it in 1993 with SUPER MARIO BROS. [sigh]. We still see it now with all those RESIDENT EVIL movies [guilty pleasures]. But in the 1990s, the video game film adaptations weren't really known for their quality. To be honest, 1995's MORTAL KOMBAT is probably the only highlight during this era - and sadly, it's still one of the better adaptations out there next to probably 2001's TOMB RAIDER, 2006's SILENT HILL, and maybe a couple of those RESIDENT EVIL films. In 1994, STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE was made to capitalize on the fighting game craze by attempting to bring those classic characters to life on the big screen. Unfortunately, the stars were not aligned for this adaptation, probably creating one of the most hated 90s films of all time. And 20 years later, I can honestly say that time has not been kind to this film. But hey, it's better than the game that was created from this, as well as the 2009 reboot STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI. So it's got that going for it!
It seems world peace is being threatened by an evil dictator named General M. Bison (Raul Julia). However, there is hope - a military task force led by Colonel William Guile (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his lieutenant Cammy (Kylie Minogue) plan to do whatever it takes to overthrow Bison's tyranny. But things get personal when Bison takes Guile's best friend, Charlie (Robert Mammonne), and others hostage - threatening to kill them if the Allied Nations don't pay him a multi-million dollar ransom. The A.N., fearing what Bison will do, relieve Guile of his duties so they can pay the ransom. But Guile wants to finish what he started. Enlisting Ryu Hoshi (Byron Mann) and Ken Masters (Damian Chapa) to infiltrate Bison's organization by gaining Victor Sagat's (Wes Studi) trust, Guile wants to take out Bison from the inside. With the unwanted help of ace reporter Chun-Li Zang (Ming-Na Wen), Guile and Cammy plan on defeating Bison once and for all.
I have three words for STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
Seriously, STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE is just a bad film on almost every level. While the game itself isn't really deep in terms of story, a decent-to-good movie could have been created out of this successful fighting game franchise. Instead, we get a script that has nothing to do with the game itself besides the character's names. We also get bland direction, strange casting choices, and just an overall feeling of "what in the hell did I just see?" I honestly can't think Capcom had any sort of say in this project. If they did, then I question their sanity. But then again, I'm sure huge sums of money will cure any sort of temporary mental illness.
Out of all the bad things I mentioned, I think it's the story itself that bums me out the most. One of the big reasons for that is that this screenplay was written by the man who directed this film, Steven E. de Souza. While not many may know him for his directing skills, many will know the man for writing some of the best action films out there. This man wrote 1985's COMMANDO, 1987's THE RUNNING MAN, and the first two DIE HARD films (1988 & 1990). He also wrote 1995's JUDGE DREDD, but that's a film I'd like to forget too. Still, how can a man who wrote so many great action flicks write such an insipid piece of crap like STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE? Did the studio interfere? Was the budget compromised or something? Or did de Souza only care about a check at this point in his screenwriting career? I honestly can't say, but something just didn't click here.
Now like I said, the Street Fighter games aren't really known for their epic stories. But by playing them, you do know who the characters are, their motivations, and even their backstories when it comes to other characters in the game. MORTAL KOMBAT proved that you could turn a fighting game into a pretty fun film if you research the game enough and manage to at least maintain the essence of the franchise. I'm not expecting the game to exactly play out on film like it would on a console. But when I'm watching a Street Fighter movie, I expect to watch it feeling as if the filmmakers knew exactly what film they were inspired by. Honestly, I think de Souza was given a bad Cliff Note's version of what the game was and decided to write his film based on that.
The fact that the main character here is Guile instead of Ryu is the story's biggest misstep. Guile was most likely picked because he's an American character that represents the military. So obviously, in terms of Hollywood storytelling, he has to be the action hero. And I'm sure many players used Guile since he had the easier move list to use [performing both the Sonic Boom or the Blade Kick didn't hurt on the hands]. But the thing is that Ryu is really the main character of the Street Fighter games. He's been in the franchise since the first Street Fighter and he's probably the most popular of all the characters in the franchise. He's also a more interesting action character than Guile is. Instead of doing the story that de Souza did, why not a BLOODSPORT-type deal where Ryu goes through some sort of tournament where he fights characters in the streets to get to his main adversaries, Sagat and M. Bison? It may not be the most thrilling story, but it would be more faithful to the game than this film turned out to be. Hell, it probably would have been better received as well!
Instead, we have to watch a stereotypical good vs. evil battle where our American hero must defeat a foreign villain who plans on taking over the world. Yawn. But even films of this type can be good and interesting. Instead, de Souza threw a bunch of shit to a wall and decided to connect the stains to write this ridiculous script. I mean, he couldn't even get the backstories right! Chun-Li is a journalist instead of a cop? E. Honda is a TV producer? Balrog is a camera man? Ken and Ryu are ARMS DEALERS??? Who the fuck thought audiences would accept these changes? Don't even get me started on Charlie, or Blanka, or whatever this monstrosity was. Instead of having Blanka be born a monster and create a sympathetic backstory for him, we have Charlie [who is a separate character in the Street Fighter games] be transformed into Blanka through the use of chemicals and a Virtual Boy depicting violent acts to corrupt his brain. Now I know where the inspiration to BATMAN & ROBIN's Bane came from. God, what was de Souza smoking while writing this film? This isn't Street Fighter! Where's the tournament? Where's the fighting? Hell, where are the streets??
It also doesn't help that STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE seems to play out like some sort of joke. It's cheesy as hell, with silly one-liners and moments that make you laugh rather than thrill you. It plays out like a cartoon, when it should play out a bit more seriously. Yes, MORTAL KOMBAT had its campy moments as well, but it also had a script that knew when to be serious. This just seems to play out as a spoof to the video game. Sure, the characters are pretty silly if you think about it, but don't insult the fans by making a mockery of their favorite game.
Also, the story is just pretty bland. All the fighting is saved until the last 25 minutes really, and none of it is done in the streets. Hell, we get a GODZILLA moment between E. Honda and Zangief that just made me roll my eyes in embarrassment. But at least that was memorable compared to the dull second act, in which characters just walk around, and blurt out expository dialogue to explain their actions. It's as if this was setting up the film rather than the first act, which at least had some action to kind of keep you somewhat engaged. This whole script was backwards. I don't know what else to really say about it.
Okay, I will say that the dialogue is cheesy enough to make you chuckle. It also helps when you miscast actors for certain characters, making the dialogue stand out more for all the wrong reasons. Jean-Claude Van Damme, in particular, is playing an American character who must recite motivating speeches to his fellow actors. Watching Guile butcher the English language is pure entertainment every time. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? At least it humored me and made me want more of Guile's hard-to-understand dialogue. And I gotta give credit to de Souza for at least inserting certain dialogue from the video game itself. It's just that the film should have been more of a faithful adaptation of the game - if not in story, at least in essence and feel.
Since the game is known for the characters' special moves, you'd think the $35 million budget would allow for recreations of these moves in live-action form.
I'm sorry. I shouldn't joke like that. You'll barely see any of those moves recreated. Guile does do his Blade Kick. M. Bison does levitate and cannonball himself into people [although the way he does it is cheap - magnetic boots really?]. And I think I barely saw Ryu perform a Whirlwind Kick. And was that weak uppercut Ken's Dragon Punch?
Where did all that money go? Jean-Claude Van Damme's secret bank account for hookers and coke?
Seriously, the characters barely do anything that resembles a Street Fighter game. With a budget that high, we should have seen more than we actually do. Instead of having shit explode and wasting cash on a Virtual Boy, we should have gotten some special effects bonanza with characters beating the crap out of each other. At least MORTAL KOMBAT made it up for us a year later. But STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE should have done it first.
The direction by Mr. de Souza is just as bland as they come. There's no real style at all in this film. It's competent for what it is, but it's not exactly a very exciting or thrilling film to watch. In fact, it drags a bit and probably should have been 15 minutes shorter. And the action is pretty bad, not gonna lie. The choreography just wasn't there for me. For a film about fighting, you'll be severely disappointed. I do appreciate that when we see characters bust out their special moves, he doesn't really cut away from it. The film does look pretty nice as well, with some great sets and exteriors that are eye candy. And I love that last shot where the characters do that pose all at once - poses taken right from the game when a character wins a round. The visuals have their moments every now and then, but the direction is pretty uneventful for the most part.
The acting - man, what can I say about the acting? Jean-Claude Van Damme probably ruined his status in America starring in this movie. Surprisingly, I don't really blame him totally for it. Yes, he was terribly miscast as Guile - an actor with an BELGIUM accent playing an AMERICAN character - really? But I'm sure he got a big check for the role, and who wants to turn down money like that - especially in 1990s dollars? Seriously though, Van Damme seems to be going through the motions here. Van Damme is a charismatic guy, but this role worked against him. The dialogue he recites is not only silly, but makes the fact that he's playing a full-blooded American even more ridiculous. His heart just doesn't seem to be totally into it. Maybe he realized the script sucked and just said "fuck it". I'm not really sure. Still, terrible casting.
Raul Julia, in his last film role before his tragic passing, is probably one of the highlights as M. Bison. He may not look like the character all that much in terms of build, but at least Julia seems to be having a ball acting as over-the-top as possible. It's been said that he knew he was really sick, but took the role anyway because his children were fans of the video games. I can't hate on Julia for that, as he wanted to make his kids smile. While the script worked against him, at least Julia tries to make it work and seems to be having fun. Nothing wrong with that. He entertained me.
The other actors are a mixed bag. Ming-Na Wen is actually very good as Chun-Li, seeming to embrace the silliness of the film and making the character somewhat captivating. I think she had the best material to work with as well, which worked for her. Nice to see her still around, as I think she's a pretty good actress in whatever she's in. Pop star Kylie Minogue looks the part as Cammy and has the lovely Australian accent to make her role work. Plus, I can't hate on Kylie. She's hot and I dig her music too. So there. It was kind of funny to see Miguel A. Nunez attempting a Jamaican accent as Dee Jay, as well as Andrew Bryniarski as Zangief [I thought Bryniarski was pretty amusing as the clueless Russian henchman]. Wes Studi looks the part as Sagat. Byron Mann played a character named Ryu with a script not allowing him to actually play that role. Damian Chapa had a better role as Ken Masters, although it could have been better. The other actors did the best they could with the material, I guess. The casting of this movie still makes me scratch my head though.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REALIZING YOU ARE NOT MAN ENOUGH TO FIGHT WITH ME
- Ryu and Ken are involved in the arms trading business with Sagat. I'd like to use a weapon on whoever thought this was the best idea for all three of these characters.
- Vega versus Ryu's cage fight ended before it got started thanks to Guile barging in with a tank to arrest everyone. Unlike the UFC, this fight was not worth breaking your leg over.
- Bison wants to create a super soldier to help him fight the good fight. Steve Rogers is thanking the Stars and Stripes he got his serum decades prior.
- Guile faked his death to trick Bison into lowering his defenses. If only he was able to fake an American accent in the same manner.
- E. Honda feels no pain in being whipped. Neither does Kanye West. #DATASS
- Guile delivered a stirring speech to get his team to fight Bison. Or I think he did. He's still on the advanced class on his Rosetta Stone tapes, so I'm not sure.
- Dhalsim turned Charlie into a green skinned monster who is supposedly Blanka. Lou Ferrigno is laughing his ass off.
- Cammy is an expert marksman. When that bullet hits your brain, you can't get it out of your head.
THE FINAL HOWL
Is it the worst video game adaptation? No, not even close. I would rather watch this than that LEGEND OF CHUN-LI reboot from 2009, plus many of those Uwe Boll adaptations. But it's a badly made adaptation no matter how you look at it. STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE is not worth performing a Hadouken for. Time has not been kind to this one.