Wednesday, May 6, 2009

DarkSider's Realm Review Of Street Fighter (1994)

Street Fighter (1994)
Reviewed By: The DarkSider 8/1/09
Part Of The B-Movie Controllers Roundtable 2009

THE PLOT: Sigh…another video game movie. The one I’m about to review had been hanging out on my shelf for quite some time. I bought it (for whatever reason) a few years back and I kept saying to myself “its time I review that”. However this time I apparently meant it. First a little background before we begin.

Street Fighter II was one of those games I never really mastered but could hold my own in. I preferred Blanka more than anyone because of his slash and tear fighting style. I also moonlit as Dwalsim and M. Bison frequently. When this film initially came out back in the 90s I think my reaction was, “well that’s going to suck or be really cool”. I guess I should of realized “suck” was the only thing this movie was capable of doing. If anything, I’d like to go ahead point out the “subtle” character changes in the film’s plot. Keep in mind, I’m not going “fan boy “ on this movie’s misrepresentation of the game’s characters. Rather, I’m exploring how much they painfully dropped the ball, or in this case “controller”.

The film opens with a world wide report from reporter Chun Li. Right away we have to stop. Chun Li was an agent in the game that was out to avenge her father’s death. So why is she a reporter you ask? Well the audience needs someone to explain why things are going wrong in Shadaloo City. Whats that you ask? Shadaloo was a crime syndicate in the original Street Fighter game? Well now its apparently broadened it’s horizons and became a tourist spot or something.

Huge military things are happening there because M. Bison, an evil warlord, is out to vrule de vworld. Yes, they actually got his character somewhat right because it was hard to screw up. Bison is played by Raul Julia who I will cover in the last part of the review. Bison watches the newscast and apparently he’s got himself a bunch of hostages he’s holding for (extreme close up with pinky to my mouth) 20 BILLION DOLLARS.

Oh but he’s in trouble folks because his adversary is rolling into town on an armored vehicle. Would this be the mild mannered American Air Force Guile from the game who is a man of few words? No, this is the brash Jean Claude Van Damme version of Col Guile who simply won’t stop talking through a thick European accent. If there was one character that annoyed me the most in this movie it was him. I like Van Damme movies here and there but he killed me in this role. I mean seriously, he is a master of one liners which were so awful it couldn't make people on laughing gas giggle.

Anyhow, Guile is there with his buddy Cammy who I guess I can bend a little bit when it comes to game to character changes. That’s partially because she is played by Kylie Minogue. I can buy into just about anything on looks alone when it comes to her. However, also part of Guile’s team is T-Hawk who in the game was a standard Native American character out to avenge his father’s death. They pretty much slap a headband on him in this film and call it a day. These folks all lead the “AN” or “allied nations’. I guess they’re a small division of the UN that nobody wants to acknowledge…or at least that’s what I’m thinking.

Guile sends out a vulgar message to M. Bison which kind of upsets Chun Li and her crew. Oh I didn’t mention those guys yet. Remember Balrog and E. Honda from the game? Well apparently they got themselves communication degrees and became Chun Li’s crew. Oh but the character idiocy is only about to continue. Through quick introductions we meet some of Bison’s henchmen, Zangief and Dee Jay. Zangief of course in the game was out to do his country proud in the SF tournament. Dee Jay was out to find the rhythm of the night...or something...when it came to fighting. Now they apparently have turned to the dark side. Bison messes with Guile giving him 3 days for the money or else. He also discovers that Guile’s buddy Charlie is in his clutches. Bison reads his dog tags to find out his name is Carlos Blanka. Oh man they wouldn’t dare combine two characters in the SF universe would they? Sigh…ok…ok…time out…time out!

Jesus F’n Jehoshaphat! Did anyone involved with this damn film drop a single quarter into a SFII machine…ever?! I mean here it is, several paragraphs in and all I’m talking about is how badly they screwed up the characters. Yeah that’s my fault for caring so much but how can one ignore it? You have to figure a good percent of the target audience would at least have tried the game at some point. So why screw things up so horribly in the character cross over? Mortal Kombat had no problem keeping to the game’s plot and all that movie had was mediocre special effects and fighting. BUT it was entertaining. Why the hell couldn’t have this film done the same? Evil organization holds a fighting tournament …done…plot written. Why all of this revisionist BS?

Well, Charlie gets hauled away to the lab ending the first 10 minutes of the movie. Got enough characters jammed up your arse yet? Don’t worry there is more on the way. Quickly we join up with Vega who appears with mask and claw fighting in a cage. Ok…game reference…finally. Maybe they are going to get characters like Ryu and Ken at least close to their in game characters. Oh wait a minute…apparently the well disciplined warriors from the game are now into illegal weapon dealings with Sagat. Are you f*cking kidding me? Well…so much for what I said a few sentences ago. Ryu and Ken are found to be frauds by Sagat and after some fighting, he holds them at gunpoint. This switches over to Bison talking to a Dr…here we go again…Dhalsim. No…no…no…not the pacifist fighter from India. Rather a doctor being held against his will be Bison. As much as it depressed me to write that last sentence, it makes me smile. There are officially no more game to character abominations to cover.

" you remember what accent we were
supposed to be

Oh wait…one last character that I kind of covered earlier…Blanka. This one I’m dedicating a paragraph to because he was in fact my favorite in game character. So Blanka’s story in the game was that of fierce jungle warrior in Brazil. He could harness electricity through his body and shock people in one of the coolest moves in fighting game history. So…what did they do to my go to guy in this film? First they combined him with Charlie which is a leap too big in itself to fathom. But wait…it gets better. He is transformed into the orange haired Blanka we know from the game by first viewing awful images (clips of this film probably) and later by mutant steroids. Out of all the plot idiocy I have covered up and down in EVERY review I've EVER done, this one is in near (if not) number one. I’m going to have to step away from my computer for a bit.

Ok…I guess I’ve gained my composure. The next scene we join up with Ryu who is pitted in a cage match against Vega. Before the movie can start to look anything like the game, Guile busts in and breaks up the event thus arresting everyone there. I’m glad one man can do that. Well after this hootenanny, Guile holds a meeting which is broken up by an assassination attempt and a prison riot. Of course, the riot is caused by members of Shadoloo messing with Ken and Ryu. Guile notices their fighting ability and takes interest in them as good guys. He puts a guilt trip on them and tells them they’ll leave over his dead body.

Quicker than you can say “foreshadow”, Ryu and Ken put a plan into motion during transport. They get the keys to their cuffs and take over the transport. This eventually sees Guile getting capped by Ken in the middle of the street. Chun Li witnesses this and puts some sort of tracking device on the truck. You know, because reporters have that sort of thing with them regularly. Bison hears of Guile’s death and expresses remorse that we will not be able to fight him. He then goes on to monologues, like generic villains often do in scripts, about ruling the world and whatnot.

Later that evening, Chun Li and her gang (for reasons I’m not sure about) pick up a homing signal in their van from the AN building. Chun Li goes into ninja mode and raids their building to find Guile very much alive. He has her taken away but she escapes successfully after mentioning she is not just a reporter….and a ninja…and a…oh who the hell knows at this point what she is…or any of the other characters for that matter.

Cut to Bison who is having a talent night or something in his camp. A few things go on in the next couple scenes such as Ryu and Ken getting abducted by the performers who happen to be Chun Li and her gang. At this point I realized how much Ryu and Ken in this movie reminded me of the annoying brothers in Double Dragon. They tell the boys that they are going to blow the place sky high. Meanwhile, Bison and Sagat get into an argument over funding. Apparently Bison has printed his own Bison dollars which ticks off Sagat. The two factions almost end up blowing each other away until Chun Li’s plan takes effect causing the camp to go up in flames.

"Please! Stop! I'll do anything you want!
Just turn the Hannah Montana marathon off!"

While Guile and his team plan for an assault against Bison, Chun Li and her gang are easily taken into custody. I’m assuming its because they didn’t go over the “escape route thing” when planning out their evening. This movies has some huge friggin’ issues folks. Anyhow they put Balrog and Honda in an easily escapable situation while more nonsense happens with Ryu and Ken. They actually obtain their familiar uniforms from the game thanks to Zangief who introduces them to Bison’s training facility. At this point they come full circle on the “bad guys” turned “good guys” thing.

Meanwhile in Guile’s camp, he is told by the head of the AN that the assault is off because they want to bargain with Bison. Guile goes into half assed Patton mode and makes a lackluster speech to his troops about kicking the “son-IFA-bitch’s” ass. I reviewed it a few times and yes, that’s the way he says it. His troops, who apparently don’t like the idea of going home to their families, all rally around Guile.

Back with Bison who is chatting it up with his prisoner Chun Li who also has dressed up in her game garb. She tells him of how he killed her father finally drawing a desperate link to the in-game character’s story. Chun Li then goes on to break her hand restraints and kick Bison around the room for a bit. Balrog and Honda, who escape with Ryu and Ken, arrive but Bison escapes to a personal chamber and gasses the room.

While Guile leads his assault and daydreams of Charlie in a rather gay manner, Dr. Dhalsim decides to help Charlie out a bit. He changes the images he is witnessing to positive ones such as birds, marriages and girl on girl films. Ok, maybe not the last one but I’d hope so for Charlie’s sake. Back to Guile who switches his boat to stealth mode. For some reason , some times it showed up on screen and other times it didn’t. I mean was this thing supposed to disappear or not? It doesn’t matter because Bison destroys it with his defenses anyhow. Side note, his controls for his defense mechanism seem to be the controls for the actual SF video game.

Back to Dwalsim who’s reprogramming shenanigans are found out by the guard. The two scuffle and conveniently open up Charlie’s chamber which makes Blanka appear. Unbelievable idiocy…anyhow, Blanka disposes of the guard rather quickly. Cut to a few inept guards on the bank of the river. Guile, Hawk and Cammy appear to assault them. During the assault Cammy yells out “thrust kick” giving yet another very minor nod to the in-game character.

While time runs out on the hostages, Guile and company find a secret entrance into Bison’s complex. Why, well I guess secret entrances come standard for evil lairs in moronic movies like this one. Guile comes up into the room where Charlie was transformed. After poking around a bit, he comes face to face with Blanka. For some reason he recognizes him past the awful special effects makeup and reminds Charlie of their friendship. Guile almost does a mercy killing but Dwalsim stops him.

Guile hops into Charlie’s old chamber which is summoned by Bison to kill the hostages. However, Guile surprises Bison with a gravity defying kick to the chest. This gives way to a gunfight and explosion fest between Guile’s team and Bison’s soldiers who have the accuracy of a drunk Stormtrooper. A few fist fights break out for those who apparently didn’t know how to pick up weapons. One in particular is Honda vs. Zangief that’s lasts for a bit. Another is Ken and Ryu vs. Sagat and Vega.

Insert 25 cents to stop

Guile finally comes face to face with Bison and the two kick off their fist fight. The fighting goes on for a bit and Guile actually takes out Bison. Then in a bit of plot stupidity, Bison’s suit becomes electromagnetic thanks to the volt of electricity in his built in life support system. This enables him float and use Force lightning. At this point I was forgiving a lot just to get to the end of the film. A few kicks and bad clichés later, Guile takes out Bison for good.

Before Guile leaves he runs into Dwalsim who dons his familiar shaved baled in-game appearance. I’m assuming the stress from the script made his hair fall out or something. Anyhow, Dwalsim stays with Blanka inside the building which explodes. This completely makes no sense because a few paragraphs ago Dwalsim stops Guile from a quick and easy mercy killing. Yeah why not pick a death that could involve being crushed to death or even better, have you trapped for days so you can starve to death.

Well anyhow, with just about everyone rescued and evacuated the good guys, joined by Zangief who decided to be nice last minute, and they have a “Guile is dead” moment. However, of course he arrives and all is well and happy. While Bison’s complex crumbles, everyone does their victory stance from the game. Cute, but a little too late for this movie to save face.

Sigh where to begin. I guess I should first point out who directed/wrote this film. That would be Steven E. de Souza who was involved writing screenplays for many great tongue in cheek action flicks like Commando, The Running Man and Die Hard. He took on the director’s chair and wrote the film with SF. What we ended up with was the goofiness of Hudson Hawk (another arguably low point in de Souza’s career) mixed with the action of Commando minus the heart. In other words, he kind of fell flat on his face when it came to SF and the critics panned this thing to hell from the get go. Now, years later I’m doing the same. Luckily de Souza’s brilliance in other films behind the scenes helps me forgive him for this film.

Moving onto the film itself, its more than obvious from my comments throughout the review that the characters were awful. Its almost as if they had a generic action film written and had a five minute meeting before the film to discuss how they would work in the in-game characters into it. Once again you have to figure interest in this film would be mainly for fans of the game itself. Of course I can understand how they wanted to open up the target audience but the story itself is too weak to do so. I need a thousand fingers to count how many awful “evil dictator vs. good guy team” movies exist already. Why add another one onto the bargain heap if it’s as generic as this one.

The film desperately tries to squeeze in-game references a day late and buck short later. At certain points the characters do some of their “signature” moves such as Guile’s flash kick, E. Honda’s hundred hand slap, Ken’s Shroyuken, and Ryu who inexplicably pulls a Hadouken out in his fight against Vega. However, oh so much is left out…stuff I would have loved to see. Stuff like Zangief’s spinning piled river or Chun Li’s spinning bird kick or Dhalsim‘s yoga fire. Most of all, I would have liked to seen Blanka’s electricity harness.

I could go on forever about SF’s lack of moves but the problem here is these moves are hardly accomplishable in the real world. This aspect is key because this is where the film truly fails to capture any magic of the game. SF the movie is based in a somewhat real life situation. For SF to work, it should have bended reality a bit more. For example, keep the film’s plot revolving around an actual tournament where people with special abilities fight. Once again, think of the first Mortal Kombat that dropped all the rules of the real world and gave us some fun visuals mixed with cool fight scenes. SF drops the ball and tries to hard way too late to accomplish what fans wanted.

Which brings me to this; the film is loaded with WTF moments for non-fans of the game. For example at the end when all the characters magically end up looking like their in-game counterpart. Why at that point do that? You have Balrog putting on boxing garb during the big battle, Dwalsim magically shaving his head and Cammy wearing long pigtails into battle. Its all just a mishmash of silliness that makes the film simply fail in a big way.

Now…moving onto the little good with this film I could find. If there is one gigantic and inspiring beacon of light in this film it is Raul Julia. Julia, who in my opinion shined in camp roles like this one, was given a generic role and he made shine like diamonds. This was one of his last roles before his death and his performance is an honest testament to the late actor’s skill and professionalism. I will say too that the film does have a lot of great “that guy” actors in it and they do their best with the script. Van Damme however seems to be thrust into the limelight constantly and I simply couldn’t stomach him in this role. The role was way too over the top and his accent nearly killed me.

Staying with the positive though, I did find myself randomly chuckling at the jokes which I knew were meant to be lame. For example, a bunch of Asian soldiers tune into E. Honda and Zangief’s fight over a monitor. As they fight in a small model city, the sounds of Kaiju are in the background. Its this kind of stuff that I found keeping a much needed smile on my face at times.

SF still went on to make a decent amount of money world wide at the box office and has become a cult favorite in our counter film culture. I have it on my shelf and have no intentions to get rid of it no matter how much I’ve ragged on it. It is after all a video game movie and not necessarily the worst one ever. However, it could have been much more for gamers and non-gamers alike.

Well its time for us to turn off the game system but there are other pixilated based movie adventures out there. So quit blowing into your computer to get it to work and check out some more reviews by clicking the banner below. Better enter the invincibility code first though…just in case…

You're A Grand Old A-Hole
(the a-holes of the film get their moment)

M. Bison

M. Bison is a fellow hell bent on getting the money he needs by any means necessary. I would too if I had to pay the electric bill for 1000 television sets in my evil lair.


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