Thursday, April 10, 2014

MR Street Fighter (film)

It's finally time to bring back my "Fightin' Marathon" reviews - with this 100Th Movie Review Special!

"Adventure is the name of the game!!"

Check out my Street Fighter reviews and be a family man, kiddo!

Movie: Street Fighter aka Street Fighter: The Movie or also Street Fighter (1994)
Directed by Steven E. de Souza
Release date 1994
Genre Action film 
Country USA/Australia

Here's one awesome 90s underrated gem, a cult favorite of mine. I know, I know...

But lemme explain from the beginning.

Jean-Claude Van Damme's Street Fighter is the big budget blockbuster movie adaptation of Capcom's classic fighting video game franchise of the same name.

It was directed by Steven E. de Souza, who is mostly known for writing films like Commando, Die Hard, Die Hard 2 and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003.

It's a movie that is mostly remember as a huge trainwreck and silly video game adpatation... but I don't really particularly with those kind of views on this film.

Some say it tried too much to be a big Hollywood movie and lost sight of what it should have been. Others say it actually was too close to the games which made it plain bad and corny.

Well I think they were able to find the perfect middle ground. It actually stayed pretty close to the games, much more than you'd expect from these sort of movie adaptations usually. (Super Mario, anyone? And what about the awful King of Fighters or Tekken live movies? and... Alone in the Dark? sigh..)

People also tend to say it didn't really capture the tone of the game, it was as different from SF as possible, as fans proclaimed at the time. Adding too much humor to the series. Did we play the same SF games, guys? Really?? SF's never been synonymous with serious, even more so nowadays...

Anyway, without further ado, let's dig into Steven E. de Souza’s 1994 adaptation from the start...

The story revolves around this dictator named General M. Bison who wants to take over the world, from his fictional country of Shadaloo (strangely intact through it's game-to-film transition plot-wise...).

We meet this army guy from the Allied Nations, Colonel William F. Guile. With his assistant Lieutenant Cammy, he's been trying to break into Shadaloo since he lost a platoon of soldiers which his friend Carlos "Charlie" Blanka was part of.

Meanwhile there's this pair of small time crooks turned unlikely heroes, Ryu Hoshi (which apparently sounds here Rye-you and not Ree-you, but I digress...) and Ken Masters. Ryu and Ken get dragged along the arrest of a Shadaloo arms dealer, Victor Sagat. Guile decides to use them to locate Bison's secret Shadaloo City headquarters.

Along the way, our merry team of martial artists also meet a reporter Chun-Li Zang, E. Honda and more! Oh, and let's not forget the very awesome Zangief.

In fact, most of the entire SF2 cast (including all iterations) appears on screen, minus... one single character... Fei Long (because.. huh, Bruce Lee wasn't available anymore at the time....?).

Instead we got the original character of Captain Sawada (probably named after the actor Kenya Sawada), the actor was originally supposed to be Fei Long but it changed at some point behind the scenes... We even also get strangely some Street Fighter Alpha characters prior to their actual first debut before the release of their game!

Bison captured hostages and now is planning to turn those missing soldiers into an army of mindless super strong mutants! And Chun Li is after him because she wants to avenge her father.

The plot sees Guile and his team try to break into Shadaloo while the rest of the cast provides some distraction. There's only three days before Bison takes over the entire world!

Of Course!!

The film was dedicated to the late Raúl Juliá who portrays Bison here, and died shortly after the film's release.

Let it be said, more than a SF film, this is before all a Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle. That's why the all-American Guile sounds french in this film. Without Van Damme, there probably wouldn't even be a Street Fighter film back then. The film was released and produced because of JCVD's success with Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Double Impact and right after Timecop!

Like the games, the film also feature multicultural cast (much more multicultural than most blockbusters these days..) composed of pop singer Kylie Minogue (as Cammy), Native American actor Wes Studi (as Sagat?? he was Tai' in the games!), Chinese American actress Ming-Na Wen (as Chun-Li) and more!

Granted. Most of these characters were severely altered for the big screen.

Lots of strange decisions, such as making Ryu and Ken side-characters AND thieves. Combining Guile's friend Charlie with Blanka. The worst offender probably is turning Indian yoga fighter Dhalsim into some British doctor...

For some reason, Vega turned out pretty great, as close as it gets in an adaptation.

It always impressed me how good most of it turned out, with a Raúl Juliá suffering at the time of the production (filmed right prior to his death). Yet Julia still appears very professional and seemed to be having a lot of fun in this film.

The costumes of our protagonists appear to change to their iconic video game look as the film progresses. I always found this pretty funny and random.

It's a pretty solid fun entertaining flick.

With lots of highly memorable scenes.

And I know it all seems pretty silly in the end.. but isn't Street Fighter a pretty silly fighting game to begin with? (And I say that as a long time huge Street Fighter fan)

The film can be campy at time, but there's plenty of solid gold entertainment to have with it.

Plenty of classic one-liners. Including one of the Greatest Speeches in Cinematic History!

Steven E. de Souza managed to squeeze in as many references and allusions to Capcom as possible. One of my favorites being the Capcom-painted barrels straight from the Bonus Stages!

A ton of references, as many characters as possible and still able to make it fun to watch? Priceless!

There are some direct SF references, be it in the form of arcade machines or arcade sticks directly put and used on screen! Some movies replicated at best, despite taking out the entire "magical"/Ki energy element.

Some stages inspired most of the locations of the film. And by the by, this was even filmed on location in Thailand! 

They even actually put on screen entire quotes lifted from game into actual dialogues such as: "Are you man enough to fight with me?" and "Anyone who opposes me shall be destroyed!"

The film closes on the most epic closing screen, inspired by the characters' winning pose from Street Fighter II!

The epic score was composed by Graeme Revell and is still a guilty pleasure of mine to this very day.

The film made a huge profit at time, despite bad reception.

It ends with another one of these classic 1990s cliffhanger - a mysterious scene opens as we see the trashed computers in Shadaloo finishing recharging... A sudden close-up... It's Bison's hand, his fist smashing back though the rubble! "Continue?"

RIP Raúl Juliá.

Overall, it's wasn't great... but it certainly wasn't bad either!

Some might say the much lighter tone ruined it, but I always personally found it was pretty darn' close to the games (counting from SF Alpha onwards)!

The film suffered from a huge convulsed production, lacking some founding and having several problems due to so many rewrites... Yet I can still only find myself loving it to this very day. And in the light of all the recent game-to-film adpatations we received over the following decades, I'm forced to reckon; Street Fighter is without a doubt one of the better ones.

As it stand, the film is just plain pretty fun and highly entertaining from beginning to end. It even features some good action sequences, kickass fights here and there and a lot of memorable scenes. Which is more than you can ask from a literal live action Street Fighter film!

The film was released at the height of the franchise's popularity, which is probably why it received so much flak.

The film would be then referenced in actual games later on, such as a stage featuring Blanka in the background who is not present when playing with Charlie...

Two video game tie-ins were released at the time, both based on the film using digitized footage with the film's actors specifically done for the game (think Mortal Kombat). An arcade and an home system one.

Originally Van Damme was trying to get a sequel up in Hollywood around 2003, with Universal. He was able to get most of the original cast back on-board, including Ryu and Ken's actors. He even had secured his pal Dolph Lundgren to join him this time in an unrevealed role. But without much luck, the project couldn't move forward and it ended up becoming the reboot/prequel we got in form of   Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li by 20th Century Fox. At first they even offered the role of Guile back to Van Damme despite it being Fox's reboot of the Street Fighter film franchise. He would have been the only returning cast member from the original film, but he turned it down finally.. Good thing for him, considering how bad it turned out!

All in all, Street Fighter is a pretty fun film. a great JCVD flick and a kickass SF film! In the end, it's simply highly enjoyable,

I give it:
2 / 3 Films!

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