Friday, 24 March 2017

Retro Review: Street Fighter (1994), Sony Movie Channel

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Simon Callow
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $99 million 

Plot: Colonel Guile and various martial arts heroes fight against the tyranny of Dictator M. Bison and his cohorts 

'Weak Fighter'

If like me, you were the child of the 1980s, or teenager or 20 something in the 1990s, then you will have probably come across a video game called Street Fighter II, made by the company, Capcom. Street Fighter II: The Road Warrior, was a follow up to the first game, which wasn't so successful and was a fighting game where characters battle each other one versus one, using their trademark fighting style. The games colourful graphics, range of combatants and fighting styles struck a chord with gamers. Thus, making it the leader of the pack for fighting games ahead of The King of Fighters, Tekken and Sega's Virtua Fighter series. 

Yet unfortunately, just like the live action Super Mario Bros of the previous year, Street Fighter: The Movie pretty much deviates from its source material from the games themselves. Despite the name, its similarities and resemblances towards the games, are, well, very little. Director Steven E. De Souza surely wasn't making this film to be like the games, in its tone and reverence. And surely with something like Street Fighter, one would think how can you not mess it up, I mean, it has to come close to the video game, right. Wrong. 

Despite Jean-Claude Van Damme being touted and headlined as the major star of Street Fighter, he doesn't make an impact until the last third of the movie. As a Belgian playing an American, his accent is so thick, one would be mistaken for thinking Guile was Cajun or something. Which he is not, by the way. 

Films based on video games have been woeful and the failures of Double Dragon, Tekken, Dead or Alive, The King of Fighters, Super Mario Bros and Max Payne don't help their cause, nor do they change that and people's negative perceptions surrounding them. 

Given his expertise in action films, such as Die Hard and Arnie flicks, Commando and The Running Man, De Souza should have known better. Yet his idea of going with a fusion of James Bond, a military film and have little martial arts fighting in it, just didn't make sense for a franchise, based on a fighting game. 

The script is woeful, performances are pretty poor and some bad overacting, although Raul Julia is the best of the bad bunch, having to work with a bad guy and villain, who comes across as too generic and formulaic. Everyone else is badly miscast and out of place. Hard Target and The Joy Luck Club were great movies starring Van Damme and Ming- Na Wen, but Street Fighter is hardly a high point on their career résumés. And to see them go from that to something as poor as this is odd. Personally, Guile should have been played by Dolph Lundgren. And though I am a fan of Kylie Minogue's music, her role as Cammy is not for her. Dialogue is and at times to the point, corny. Only a few of the actors resemble their characters properly. The intentional humour the film was aiming for and delivered is both cringing and bad. And for some fighting -based action, it's mostly ammo and guns and when there is a one versus one showdown, it is badly executed. The fight choreography is rather poor actually and they also look as though as they have been heavily edited, but for some of Van Damme's kicks. The whole thing comes off looking like a cartoon and it was difficult for me to care much for it when the film is so terrible. The costumes also aren't great. Almost everything about it feels wooden and it's like De Souza tries too hard. 

The plot is a mess and the storylines with Chun Li as a reporter and Charlie turning into Blanka, when Blanka was a separate character hailing from Brazil, were ridiculous. His makeup was so terrible he looked like The Incredible Hulk reject. The story should have been far more imaginative and lively and the scenes with Ken and Ryu were easily forgotten about, and that I didn't care for them. Though had it not been for the Street Fighter branding, characters and its association with the video games, then I'd enjoy it more. 

Final Verdict: 

Though De Souza was aiming not to make the same mistakes that practically ruined Super Mario Bros, for a video game based movie, Street Fighter is still, corny, laughable and awful in almost every respect. 

Time magazine listed this in their top 10 list of worst video game movies, ever, and watching Street Fighter, it no doubt deserves that honour. This movie was an excuse to further milk the cash cow of Street Fighter's video game success, that it wanted a piece of that pie. 

What Steven De Souza and the screen writer clearly forgot though was had they made a Street Fighter film that stuck close to the games source material, it would have been better received. 

If you're going to make a film based on a video game, cartoon or TV show property, at least respect the source material. 

Street Fighter didn't, and because of that, as far as video game based movies go, it's no wonder it's seen as a joke. 


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