The Apologist Reviews: Street Fighter
Over the course of this past year I've begun to notice something about myself, I tend to like a lot of movies and shows that a lot of other people, for one reason or another, really hate. The list of these has become so long in fact that I've decided to share my thoughts on a few such films, not to force my opinions on others, but rather to just put my opinions out there in the open for people to read. A few things to get out of the way. First, as with most of my reviews, there will be spoilers for this series, sorry but in some cases it cannot be helped. Second, if you disagree with my opinion and wish to voice yours, feel free to do so, I welcome it, but please, in your comments, do not dismiss my opinions as the ramblings of someone who does only likes stupid movies because he's twelve years old and doesn't like movies that make him think. I will have you all know that I have spent the last three years studying the art and theory of filmmaking and am also an aspiring screenwriter. I'm not bragging I'm just letting you all know that I do know what I'm talking about when it comes to film analysis. I freely recognize that the films I will cover here are flawed and those flaws will be addressed in the review. With all that out of the way, let's get on to the first review of what I hope to be a long series of film reviews, Street Fighter the Movie.
This is the perfect film for this series, it's an absolutely terrible film but at the same time is so over the top and so ridiculous that it has a certain charm. The movie knows it's terrible and it has fun with it. Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo is my favorite video game of all time. It was the first video game I ever learned how to play and cemented fighters as my favorite genre. It's no secret that there has yet to be a film based on a video game that is actually considered to be a good movie, but I will say that this is one of the better ones. Now when making a film like this, probably as some sort of studio mandate given the popularity of the game at the time, you have two options. A. Play the plot completely straight and end up with something that feels painful and insincere, or B. Recognize that you have a stupid premise and run with it. Our main character is Colonel William F. Guile. Before we start discussing the characters in detail, you should probably know that pretty much every character in the game is an over the top, in some cases borderline offensive, stereotype of their respective countries. As such, in the game, Guile was the Ultimate American Stereotype, A blonde, muscle bound soldier with the stars and stripes tattooed on both arms. Who do they get to play this icon of concentrated American machismo? Jean Claude... Van....... Dam..... I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger was busy that year. To his credit though, Van Dam does a good job with what he's given. He has a lot of cheesy one liners which is to be expected from a film like this. The plot centers around a military operation to dethrone the evil dictator of the small nation of Shadaloo, M. Bison. Bison, played by the late Raul Julia, is far and away the best part of this film. He is so gloriously over the top and charismatic in his role. Bison, both in the movie and the games, has never been that complex a character and in the hands of a less talented actor, could have ruined the movie for everyone, but Julia knocks his role out of the park. Every line he has is memorable and his charismatic insanity transforms the characters lack of motivation beyond general evil from a plot hole to a plot point. I'd go into the rest of the characters in detail but then we'd be here all day, but suffice to say that every character in Street fighter up to that point is present in one form or another. There's really not much point in describing the plot of this flick because the plot is really just a vehicle to get from one fight scene to the next. I will say that most of the fight scenes are pretty damn cool and the characters, for the most part, do look like their video game counterparts. Special credit should go to the dude who plays Zangief, the game's Russian stereotype, who in addition to looking the most like his character also has some of the funniest lines in the film. Here's an example. Throughout the film, Zangief has been working for Bison. Towards the end, Bison's fortress is crumbling and his minions are struggling to escape. Zangief, having only now realized that he's working for the badguys asked DJ, the Jamaican stereotype played by that asshole from Juanna Man,
"Comrade, Bison is evil, why you serve him?"
"Because he paid me a freakin' fortune mon!"
"You got paid?"
On that note it is only fair that I describe my favorite scene to you. Chun Li, the Chinese Stereotype, E. Honda, the Japanese Sumo wrestler stereotype... who's Hawaiian in this movie... huh, and Balrog, the Mike Tyson ripoff, have been captured by Bison's forces. The latter two are taken to Bison's torture dungeon, because every super villain needs to have a torture dungeon. Meanwhile Chun Li is taken to Bison's bedroom... in a sexy dress.... and chains. You can sort of guess where this is going. Julia is great in this scene, wearing a Hugh Heffner smoking jacket but still not removing his dictator hat, acting like he thinks he's a smooth pimp daddy but coming off as a greasy old man, which is the point. For those unfamiliar with Street Fighter, Chun Li's father was killed by Bison when his forces invaded their village. Chun Li's whole motivation in this film is revenge. She berates Bison for killing her father and ruining her life but Bison doesn't seem to care. And then, my favorite line in the film:
"For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday."
The film ends with a final showdown between Guile and Bison and while the two have some great Banter with one another, Julia continues to steal the show with every line. In the end, Bison is defeated, his lair crumbles and the film ends on a freeze frame of our heroes in their victory poses from the game.
If your looking for a cerebral and thought provoking film, you're not going to find it here. This film's goal would seem to just be a fun, camp action flick. It has tons of flaws and the acting isn't always top notch, but ultimately, that doesn't matter here. It knows full well it has flaws and it embraces them rather than try to clumsily cover them up. If you're a fan of Street Fighter, this film is definitely worth a watch. It deviates from the continuity of the games quite a bit, for example, Balrog is a good guy, when normally he's one of Bison's goons and other things like that, but that shouldn't deter your overall enjoyment. It's a brainless action flick, but it's an enjoyable brainless action flick. The real credit, of course, goes to Raul Julia for a great performance in what would be his final film role before his death. I highly recommend this movie. It's terrible, but enjoyably so. Several movies have been described as "So bad it's good." This is the Citizen Kane of "So Bad it's Good"