Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Street Fighter (1994)

Street Fighter (1994)

This movie has an IMDB rating of 3.0 / 10! I wasn't surprised to learn that it had a poor score, but I was surprised that it was that low! 'Street Fighter', based on the hugely popular early nineties Capcom fighting game series, is by any objective measure a terrible film; but it's also one of those 'so bad it's good' films, a genuine guilty pleasure that fans of cheesy action films and perhaps fans of the game will enjoy.

Given the source material, it's hardly surprising that the adaptation is a little thin on substance. The game featured 16 or so fairly diverse characters from all over the world who each had his or her own sketchy little storyline. The movie basically throws much of the backstory from the game away and manages to contrive a scenario where these wacky and disparate characters somehow come together in a single storyline. So the film characters are roughly true to the game in terms of physical appearance, nationality, and arguably personality, but that's about it - their personal histories are different, but given the quality of the stories in the game this isn't such a bad thing. The movie's story revolves around a fictional country called Shadaloo where the evil warlord M Bison (Raul Julia) has taken some aid workers hostage and has given three days for the world to pay a multi billion dollar ransom. The courageous Colonel Guile (Jean Claude Van Damme), who leads the Allied Nations forces stationed in Shadaloo, is charged with rescuing the hostages. Meanwhile, hustlers Ken (Damian Chapa) and Ryu (Byron Mann) are trying to con gun runner and Bison ally Sagat (Wes Studi) in a phony weapons deal, while reporter Chun Li (Ming-Na) has her own grudge against Bison and is doing more than just reporting on the unfolding situation.

There's a whole bunch of other characters, virtually all 16 of 'em show up in some degree or another, but the ones I have listed are the main players. There's actually a surprisingly complex load of hokum going on with all of these characters and their agendas, but it's all superficial and campy, and it all serves but one purpose - to lead up to some entertaining and comical action and fight scenes. The thing that elevates this script from being just another stupid action flick is the tone - it's filled with comical moments and lines throughout which are actually quite funny. The script seems to know that the story and subject matter are cheesy, even if not all of the actors do. I'm not even sure the director does, because it's all played very straight faced, which just enhances the ludicrousness on display!

Jean Claude Van Damme, well he's always funny, and he seems like one of the actors who strangely enough was in on the joke and had a good time. Though there is that one scene where he delivers an 'inspiring' speech to his troopers, one of the (unintentionally) funniest moments in the film. The other actor who really was in tune with the material was Raul Julia, who's performance is just pure genius. His over the top megalomania is hilarious, but also he exudes power and menace at the same time and thus prevents the character from becoming just a joke. The guy easily steals the show, although it helps that he has some of the best lines. Ming-Na and Kylie Minogue take things way too seriously, while Chapa and Mann as Ken and Ryu are fun if a little bland and unmemorable. The rest of the cast just vary between attempting to be serious and having a laugh. The whole movie is like that; it's just bizarrely uneven throughout, and all the more fun for it! If it had been all serious or all jokey, it wouldn't be quite as endearing, truth be told.

The production values are not too shabby - it doesn't look good, but neither does it look bad and the on location shooting and large number of extras lend it a somewhat epic feel that transcends its budgetary limitations. Director Steven de Souza's work is completely nondescript and generic and, as I said, he is not completely in tune with the comical nature of the script - or maybe he is, and this is all a part of the joke, in which case it's a sort of genius (but I doubt it).

So, basically, 'Street Figher' is a terrible but fun film, an action movie without depth or thematic substance or any genuinely good qualities on display. It is still a hoot thanks to some game performances and writing that enhance the craziness of the story, setting, and characters and make the whole thing an entertaining and yes, memorable, 100 minutes of celluloid.


Miedy said...

"Street Figher is a terrible but fun film"
lol! I agree! I remember having a little fun watching it even though it's not the kind of movie I'd recommend to anyone and definitely probably would forgot about it later. At least, there were other movies that I couldn't even finish.

Antimatter said...

I have to confess I saw this many many times on video... at the time I didn't have much else to choose from, I loved the video game, and found the film a load of fun. And yes, I can actually speak many of the lines before the characters! :D

And all these years later I still think it's fun! :)