It was May 1995, Robson & Jerome were topping the charts with Unchained Melody *shudders* and a young Adam Sandler had just hit it big with Billy Madison mere months before but the movie I was excited about that year was Street Fighter.
Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo was one of the first games I had for my very first video game console the Super Nintendo I loved it but there was a problem. The movie was certificate 15 and I was only 7 years old. My Dad thought he would try and take me anyway so we queued up outside the cinema for the showing (that’s what you had to do in those days) but when we got to the front I was rejected for being too young and we had to go and see the terrible Macaulay Culkin Richie Rich movie *shuddering intensifies*.
So 1995 went on and I forgot about this movie partially due to the Mortal Kombat movie coming out later the same year which I got for Xmas on VHS. It wasn’t until I was around college age when I finally saw Street Fighter, I picked it up in HMV for about £3 and settled down for the ride of my 7 year old self’s life!
The movie opens up with the classic news story montage to set the scene as so many action movies do. It introduces us to our villain General M. Bison the evil dictator of the fictional country of Shadowloo (which looks a lot like Thailand) he is played by the amazing Raúl Juliá (known to our generation from the Addams Family films). I just want to say this up front, Raúl Juliá single handedly carries this movie. It’s a well known fact that he was dying of stomach cancer during the filming but he is such a professional that he never let it impact his performance. Apparently he would be sat down for most of the production day but as soon as they said ‘Action’ he came to life and in my opinion totally steals the show.
In the first scene we see Bison loading hostages into a pit, he personally slaps a few of them down I think? The camera cuts are pretty bad throughout the movie, often obscuring the fighting which is a baffling editing choice for a movie about Street Fighters. We hear via news reporter Chuni Li (played by Ming-Na Wen of Agents of Shield fame) that there is a $20 Billion ransom for these hostages and the world has 72 hours to pay up or they will be killed.
During the news report (which Bison is watching on a giant TV display) Chun Li tries to get some words from the Colonel Guile on the hostage situation. So we get our first glimpse of our sonic boom throwing, flash kicking American hero so who did they get to play him? The muscles from Brussels himself Jean-Claude Van Damme of course! JCVD’s acting is a mess in this film his accent is barely understandable and it feels like they just did one take a rolled with it for the most part. Guile is part of some kind of worldwide army called the Allied Nations whose main priority is to take down Bison it seems.
Whilst being interviewed Guile tells his buddy Charlie that he’s going to save him which immediately outs the poor guy to Bison who decides he now has special plans for Carlos “Charlie” Blanka. It turns out these special plans are to turn Charlie into a mutated super soldier. So he’s hooked up to a machine that pipes in green mutagen goo and shows him violent video clips like that scene in A Clockwork Orange. Good going Guile! Luckily the head scientist eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim (the stretchy, fire breathing Indian yoga master from the game is also a scientist apparently) decides this is a bit too much and sets out to save what he can of Charlie’s humanity.
The World Warriors
Over the next half hour or so we’re quickly introduced to the rest of the cast. Joining Chun Li Zang on her news team we have the pro boxer Balrog who has always been on Bison’s side in the games, E. Honda who in the game is a Japanese sumo wrestler but here he is a Hawaiian sumo complete with stereotypical shirt and everything. But this news team is just a cover so Chun Li can get info on Bison’s whereabouts in the hopes of confronting and assassinating him.
With Guile’s A.N. army we have Cammy the British agent played by Australian pop sensation Kylie Minogue. Who was apparently only hired to satisfy the union of the Australian Actor’s Guild as the indoor scenes were filmed there. T. Hawk who in the game is a hulking native american stereotype but in this film he’s just a regular looking soldier who at one point dons a headband with a funky design on it near the end. He also inexplicably has a band-aid on his forehead throughout the movie even though we never see him in any action scenes.
Ryu and Ken who are the main characters of the video game are so disappointing in the movie. They are travelling con-men who make a living doing dodgy arms deals with Bison’s men. This inevitably lands them in hot water but helps them infiltrate the evil organisation and relay info to Guile. Two of the coolest characters in fighting game history are reduced to morally ambiguous scam artists who provide incredibly cringey “comic relief” and just to cap it off not one fireball is thrown between them! And no one pronounces Ryu’s name consistently some say Rhy-oo and others Ree-oo the latter being the correct one. Disappointing.
The rest of Bison’s thugs include Dee Jay, the Jamaican dance fighter who seems to run the computers in Bison’s lair and do no fighting at all. Vega, the claw wielding underground cage fighter. This guy is pretty faithful to his video game counterpart the costume is on point and he actually fights in a cage just like his stage in Street Fighter 2! Zangief the towering Russian wrestler is another one they get right. He’s played by bodybuilder and looks spot on, he’s the classic dumb henchmen who provides some of the only good jokes in this movie.
Finally we have Sagat who in the game is an impossibly huge Muay Thai kickboxing legend. He’s played by the then 48 year old Wes Studi who is a great actor but not very imposing as a fighter. There’s a great scene between him and M. Bison early on where they are brokering a deal for weapons and instead of real money Bison offers him these:
Sagat: Is this a joke? This money isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on!
Bison: On the contrary. Every Bison Dollar will be worth five British pounds. That is the exchange rate that the Bank of England will implement after I kidnap their Queen.
Such a good line and delivered perfectly by Raúl. This movie has flashes of good comedy moments but they come few far and between. If they’d just embraced this goofy side more often this would have been much more enjoyable to watch.
So that’s our very over saturated cast, apparently Capcom (the Japanese company that owns Street Fighter) fought against the director to include as many characters as possible as he originally only wanted 7 from the video game. So as you can imagine this leaves a small percentage of screen time for everyone and they all go undeveloped as a result. Capcom are also the ones who pushed for JCVD as Guile who’s fee cost around a fourth of the films budget.
You Sunk My Stealth Boat
So after a bit of in fighting all the good guys wind up on the same page and decide to launch a full army assault on Bison’s Bond villain lair. Guile and his troops are about to leave when my second favourite character shows up out of nowhere. This guy!
The snooty rich government bureaucrat (Simon Callow) playing pretty much the same character he would play in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls later in the year. This guy is great, with a smug face looking like he’s just closed down a beloved youth centre he proceeds to tell Guile that the A.N. is going to negotiate with Bison and he is to inform his troops to stand down. So this prompts Guile to make a fairly passionless speech to his troops and he manages to whip them up into a frenzy and runs off to confront Bison against orders in his STEALTH BOAT!
This has got to be one of the least stealthiest vehicles in film history. The first thing you notice is it has Guile’s full name in huge white letters plastered on the side. Granted once he get’s going they do activate the stealth camo to render the boat invisible but that doesn’t stop the huge wake it leaves behind as it bombs loudly down the river to Bison’s lair. Then guile decides to take out the cameras and gun emplacements on the river bank so proceeds to start shooting a huge chain gun in all directions causing giant explosions in every direction. STEALTH!!!
Somehow this catches Bison’s attention and he manages to blow up the boat. Guile and crew had luckily escaped from it though and our heroes make their way into the base. They snoop around for a bit but are captured pretty quickly and Bison orders Chun Li to be taken to his quarters.
Bison’s bedroom is absolutely hilarious. There are skulls everywhere, a chandelier made of human bones, a hat rack for all his different coloured hats and this gem of a painting:
Bison changes into his smoking jacket and Chun Li gives an impassioned speech about how when she was a child her father had been killed defending their small village from a group of thugs lead by a young Bison. The reply he gives to this is without a doubt one of the greatest bad guy lines in movie history:
Bison: I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it.
Chun Li: You don’t remember?
Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.
Ice cold. After this amazing line Chun Li launches her attack and almost beats Bison but he gets himself into a safe room and releases gas into the room. So our heroes are captured again and the time is up so Bison plans to execute the hostages by letting Blanka loose in the pit to murder them all!
Behold your tiny ginger hulk in all his glory! Blanka looks absolutely awful, he doesn’t look scary at all and he doesn’t even do anything! He chokes Guile for a second before he realises that he knows him and then that’s pretty much the last we see him. Blanka was such a cool character in the game, a feral green man raised in the Brazilian rain forest who could use electric powers he learned from eels to zap people. Just another thing in a long list of disappointments.
So we’re into the final big action scene, they were obviously going for a James Bond type of thing with army guys rappelling into the base and bad guys getting blown up and flying everywhere but it looks so low budget. Bison and Guile face off in unarmed combat but during the fight Bison gets knocked into a computer panel and gets electrified. Instead of killing him this boosts his power somehow and he starts flying around slightly reminiscent of his video game counterpart but way less impressive. They’re clearly just swinging Raúl Juliá around on wires as he flies into Guile with his fists held out. Watching this I’m terrified for Raúl’s health, this is a man who was unfortunately months away from death and here he is risking his life for this waste of a movie.
So Guile finally knocks Bison out of the air with a jump kick so nice they replay the scene thrice and he flies into a big pile of monitors and is crushed. Guile then tries to rescue Charlie Blanka from the self destructing lair but eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim who is now inexplicably dressed like an adult baby having lost his hair and clothes in a lab fire I guess? Anyway, he tells Guile that he’ll take Blanka to go be one with nature or something so Guile reluctantly leaves.
All of our heroes escape the lair while it explodes and they all decide to do a little pose for the camera as the film’s logo pops up, yay! At least the characters are actually doing an approximation of their in game poses so they got that part right.
And there we have it people, it’s finally over. This movie is very confusing, why they decided to try and create a cheap military action movie instead of going with the tournament structure of the game is beyond me. It feels like they were trying to fight against the characters they’d been given instead of embracing them. Or they already had a movie premise in mind and tried to shoehorn the Street Fighter characters into it. Either way it doesn’t work and everyone is unhappy.
There are some baffling creative choices made that just annoy the Street Fighter fan in me. Why were there none of the series signature special moves? Why is Dhalsim a scientist? Why do they feel the need to give all the characters first and second names? Why is there barely any fighting in this movie called Street Fighter? Why does Dhalsim suddenly become bald at the end?!
According to the director it was a nightmare to direct and the whole production was plagued with bad luck and a dwindling budget. Polygon did a great article about what went wrong with this movie which I’d thoroughly recommend reading here. I can only recommend watching this movie if you love Street Fighter and you want to see how wrong it can go or you’re with a group of friends and drinks are involved. Or if you don’t want to spend any of your hard earned Bison Dollars maybe just find an M. Bison montage on YouTube.
I can’t even seriously rate this movie so it give it 1 Bison Dollar out of eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim.