The film centres around a dictatorship in the fictional land of Shadaloo by evil dude M.Bison, who is the final boss in the Street Fighter II game. Bison and his team of evil doers (who are made up of select characters from the games), and swarms of nameless grunts are causing havoc in the country by taking hostages, doing shady deals, and generally trying to be bastards. Trying to foil Bison is Colonel William Guile and his team, also made up of characters from the game. That's about it as far as story goes.
This would be the best word to describe this absolute train wreck of a film. Just to clear things up, I adore low budget 80's and 90's action/martial arts films. They have a quality that is so pathetic and funny, yet is backed up with tremendous action and fight sequences
Street Fighter has none of this charm. The film was not made to be good, it was not made to stand the test of time, or even please fans. It was simply a quick cash making effort with the name of an immensely popular videogame. The cry of “but it was made for kids though” races through me like a bad STD on a slow night. Kids aren't stupid when it comes to their passions, and they know when they are being taken for dipshits by adults.
To start with, the film looks dreadful. A scattered assortment of tents, boxes, and scabby buildings make up the wobbly sets, giving the whole film a cheap, muddy, and grubby look that just doesn't work. Furthermore, it bears no resemblance in either look or feel to the game. King of the Kickboxers probably had a fraction of the budget of this film and looks ten times better, with genuine Thai locations and vastly superior fights. The costumes look like they were all made the night before by the cast's mothers, and aside from all looking far too new, they don't fit the actors very well. It all looks too colourful and screams "bad cosplay".
The script is laughable. Chock full of crap one liners, crowbarred in to attempt to get the 8 year olds in the audience to laugh and probably failing miserably. One would expect a lot more from the man who penned the screenplay for such classic films as Die Hard, Commando, The Running Man and 48 hrs, and while there are occasional moments of smile inducing phrases, it's lost in a sea of banality and piss poor delivery. Then comes the changes - the many changes!
Street Fighter should have been what the game was - an Enter The Dragon style tournament. This, while not being original in any way, would have more than kept the feel of the game rather than the crappy dictator style story. Other changes are made to characterisations as well. Ryu is now an American, Guile is now Belgian, Sagat is Native American, Honda is Hawaiian, and Dhalsim is a Doctor. Midway through we are also faced with a malnourished Blanka in a bad body paint job who seems in desperate need of some Rogaine. Vega does look pretty accurate I will admit, but he doesn't actually do much within the movie itself.
The budget for the film looks like it went straight into the cast's pay cheque. Wham-Bam-Van Damme's name is plastered on posters with the intent to draw in punters based off his rather excellent back catalogue of films. The rest of the cast are made up from porridge bland unknowns and supporting actors of bigger films, with only the ever appealing Kylie Minogue having any real star power besides Van Damme.
It's really hard to like Street Fighter, even as a bit of fun, because it's such a poorly tacked together piece of filmmaking that simply doesn't care about whether it is a quality product or not.
However, is it really all THAT bad?
No, not by a long shot. There are far worse films than Street Fighter out there, and yes it does have it's good points - the first and main one being the absolutely wonderful Raul Julia. Not one single fuck is given by this glorious man as to what kind of crap he is appearing in, and he attacks every line of his dialogue with gleefully over the top theatrics. This is not only a joy to watch, but looks like he is having immense fun doing it. The performance is even more endearing when you discover that Julia took the role knowing that he was dying of stomach cancer, and the part was a dying gesture to his children who were massive fans of the game. He sometimes even did scenes a day after having intense surgery, such was his dedication to his craft, and of course his beloved children. Immersing himself in this role must also have taken his mind off of his terminal condition in his final days, and it's a theatrical performance worthy of much praise regardless of the actual movie's quality.
Other plus points are present in the movie too. Seeing Kylie Minogue or her glorious ass is never (ever) a bad thing, and to be fair she's not altogether miscast as Cammy, although her role is a touch minimal. Another good moment is an interrogation scene with Honda which stands out, and the merging of Guile's friend, Charlie (who was briefly mentioned only by name in the game) and Blanka is rather a clever one, The final frame of the film is a rather nice tribute to the game itself, but unfortunately these good points are but sprinkles of sugar on a rather sizeable turd, and none of them comes anywhere near saving the film.
However, I highly recommend following it up with the infinitely superior Mortal Kombat film from 1995, which not only manages to be a 'reasonably' faithful conversion of the game, but is a great looking action film in it's own right. Great production design, very good fight choreography, humour which lands pretty much all the time, and some decent special effects (for the time).
If however, you crave Street Fighter II specific action on screen, then I highly recommend the superb Street Fighter II: Assassin’s Fist mini series. This is a tremendously serious and dramatic take on the lore of Street Fighter II, and is happily not aimed at kids. Also highly worth checking out is the Street Fighter II anime film (also released in 1994), which pulls no punches, and is almost infinitely superior to the Van Damme bin fire in every way, including fight scenes, story and accuracy.
Street Fighter: The Movie is probably more appealing today than on release, becasue now it has nostalgia value behind it. Don't kid yourself that this isn't pure crap, but you are absolutely allowed to like a bad movie.
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.