Street Fighter

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The film “Street Fighter” contains surprisingly little fighting, and none of it takes place in the street. The end.

What, you want more than that? Oy gevalt. Look, today we know that if a film is based on a video game, there is a 100 percent chance that it will be terrible. We have learned this from experience. But “Street Fighter” came out in 1994, when the genre was still young. Many hopeful, dewy-eyed young men approached the film eagerly, dreaming of a movie that would be coherent, entertaining, and well-produced, AND feature a lot of absurdly costumed steroid-users pummeling one another. You may well imagine their disappointment when they found that only the latter was in the cards.

The opening credits inform us that the film is based on the video game “Street Fighter II” — not the original “Street Fighter,” of course, because that was just a silly game where two people fight each other. How could you make a movie out of that? “Street Fighter II,” though, is a silly game where two people fight each other — now we’re talking!

The opening credits also inform us that the costume worn by the villain named Bison was specially designed by Marilyn Vance. I noticed this in “Judge Dredd,” too, where the title character wore an outfit by Gianni Versace. Beware of action films whose major characters require their own costume designers. You know who else had his own costume designer? Liberace. Would you watch an action film with Liberace as the main character? Well, OK, you would. But not for the right reasons.

Anyway, “Street Fighter” is about unrest in a Southeast Asian country called Shadaloo, which you’ll agree is the stupidest fictional country ever devised. Even Tolkien didn’t make up geographical names that dumb. Shadaloo? Seriously?? Remember when Homer Simpson had to think fast and create a name for some imaginary person, and the name he came up with was “Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo”? Do you see where I’m going with this?

ANYWAY, Shadaloo it is. Evil warlord General M. Bison has taken over, resulting in civil war, chaos, and unreliable wifi. (Bison is played by the late Raul Julia, who wasn’t dead yet when the film was made, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him.) Bison has taken a bunch of people hostage and is demanding $20 billion from the Allied Nations, which is the movie’s name for the United Nations, possibly because the filmmakers were under the impression that “United Nations” was a trademark or something. The last thing you want is to get sued by the United Nations! Or, more likely, to have the United Nations file a non-binding resolution in mild language condemning your actions!

Anywho, the Allied Nations has sent in a U.S.-led military force with Gen. William F. Guile as commander. Guile is played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, making no attempt to hide his Belgian accent, not that the attempt would have been fruitful anyway. The troops are in Shadaloo City, trying to find Bison’s secret, massive, multi-billion-dollar fortress that is probably the size of several city blocks and could not possibly be very hard to find. For reasons that probably made sense to someone, Guile fakes his own death in full view of TV cameras, primarily for Bison’s benefit, then lies under a sheet in the dark in the morgue until a news reporter comes in to snoop, whereupon he sits up and explains his plan to her. Why he had to lie there pretending to be dead when no one was around, I couldn’t begin to guess.

Guile’s plan involves sending spies into Bison’s midst. But the TV news reporter, Chun-Li (Ming-Na Wen), wants to get involved, too, because Bison killed her father years ago. She might not even really be a qualified TV news reporter (laying aside for a moment the unlikelihood of there being “qualifications” for that job), as her real intention is to do some Bison-hunting. To that end, she brought a “cameraman” and “technician” who are actually a boxer named Balrog (Grand L. Bush) and a Sumo wrestler named E. Honda (Peter Tuiasosopo). So now there are the spies that Guile recruited, named Ryu (Byron Mann) and Ken (Damian Chapa), plus Chun-Li and her goons, all of them infiltrating Bison’s secret fortress, which is soon getting more traffic than Hollywood Boulevard.

Back in his lair, Bison has a top-secret experiment going on. He has kidnapped a soldier named Carlos (Robert Mammone) and is forcing a scientist to turn him into a super-soldier. The scientist is achieving this by making use of Science. (Science! It can do anything!) Specifically, he is increasing Carlos’ muscle mass. A computerized voice says, “Subject’s muscle mass increased by [whatever] percent,” and she notifies us at every percentage point — 48, 49, 50, 51 — even if the last announcement was just a few seconds earlier. If I were programming a computer that would verbally inform me every time it accomplished something important, I would probably want to narrow down what constitutes “important” first, lest I be annoyed by a litany of minutiae.

(Side note: For some reason, increasing Carlos’ muscle mass also turns him into an orange-haired, green-skinned, grunting monster. Take note of this, A-Rod!)

It’s around this time that the Allied Nations, represented by a wimpy, ineffectual man with glasses, tells Gen. Guile not to attack Bison after all because the A.N. is going to pay the ransom. Guile angrily decries this as a cowardly act of appeasement, a position that might have more force if it were being voiced by someone other than the Belgian in the beret. Guile rallies a group of soldiers to make an attack on Bison’s headquarters anyway, regardless of what those sissies at the Allied Nations think — heck, regardless of what Guile’s own U.S. Army commanders think. He’s gone rogue! Rogue and unintelligible!

Meanwhile, Bison has figured out that all these new people in his lair are spies and has thrown them into holding cells. When they break out, Balrog and E. Honda are wearing their boxing and Sumo-wrestling outfits, respectively, leading to several thousand questions, such as Why bother? and Where were those costumes concealed?! One doesn’t like to think of someone keistering a pair of boxing gloves and trunks, but I doubt Bison provided them, either.

Anywhom, as Guile and his team (which for some reason includes Kylie Minogue) attack the fortress from outside, Chun-Li, Ryu, Ken, Balrog, and E. Honda attack from within. Various low-level henchpersons are dispatched handily and without fanfare. Finally, Guile faces off against Bison, with the latter employing electricity to give himself the same powers he has in the video game, whereupon Guile grapples with him some more and kills him anyway. Like I said in the first place, there’s not much fighting, and none of it occurs in the street. I don’t know what you were expecting.

— Film.com