Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Jean-Claude Van
Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Kylie Minogue, Wes Studi
Director: Steven de Souza
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2009
ďColonel, have you lost your mind?Ē
ďNo, youíve lost your balls!Ē
Right about now youíre probably wondering why, oh why, am I putting myself through such sheer agony. Well, just as love makes people do crazy things, so does the purchase of a Blu-ray player. Iím taking advantage of stocking up on as many free Blu-rays offered my way, and even if that means having to review a movie like Street FighterÖletís just say Iím more than willing to take one for the team.
Truth be told, there was a point in my life when I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. And I had two very reasonable excuses for liking it, the first of which being that the idea of a video game being adapted into a movie was kind of a big deal back in 1994, when I was 15 and still quite immature (what else could explain my excitement for a Street Fighter movie). Despite the first video game/movie experiment, 1993ís Super Mario Bros., being a major debacle I still had faith that something truly kick ass could be made out of one of the greatest games to ever grace the Super Nintendo, Street Fighter II.
The second reason for my excitement was the fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme was going to be making his very first PG-13 movie, meaning I would get to finally go see one of his movies in the theater and not have to worry about revealing my age to the person in the box office (I somehow pulled it off with Hard Target and Timecop). Van Dammeís career was hotter than ever in the early 90s, and though he was never a master thespian he did carry a certain charm and would every so often churn out a damn good action flick (Universal Soldier, Hard Target, Sudden Death). Plus, that Belgian accent would always guarantee some laughs in ways not even Schwarzenegger could pull off.
So we have Van Damme headlining a movie based on a hot video game property. Should be an easy crowd pleaser to pull off, right? Since Iím no longer the immature individual I was when the movie came out, Iím quite comfortable in saying what I suppose Iíve been holding inside for so many years; Street Fighter was a laughably bad misfire an almost every level. But Iím glad the movie came out when it did, because God only knows what wouldíve happened if Uwe Boll got his hands on the material.
And in looking back, the movie was faced with a problem right from the get go. The game is essentially one long fight competition. This presented two options for the movie version; either have it be one long fight competition, which would be boring and repetitive, or attempt to go beyond the game by crafting a story involving all of the characters, of which the Street Fighter game had many.
The filmmakers wisely went with the latter option, only to end up with something so monumentally ridiculous. What stuns me most to this day was the mere fact that the movie was brought to the screen courtesy of Steven de Souza, whose screenwriting credits include no less than Commando, Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Let me repeat that; the same man who wrote the screenplay for the first two Die Hard movies wrote and directed Street Fighter. Whatís next, John McTiernan directing a remake of Rollerball? Oh, waitÖ
Man, where to begin on the story? The U.S. allied forces led by Colonel Guile (the all-American Van Damme) are engaging in a war against the insane General M. Bison (Raul Julia). Heís a power-hungry, media obsessed warlord who is holding a group of American hostages for, what else, a lot of money.
And, um, thatís basically the entire plot to the movie, which to be fair is already epic by comparison to the plot of the video game. But with a plot thatís incredibly thin by actual movie standards, it leaves the viewer with a huge question. How does this movie end up with a running time of 102 minutes?
Basically, we get an arsenal of filler scenes that serve absolutely no purpose but to jam in every single character from the Street Fighter game. In addition, we get multiple subplots involving everything to news reporters, gun dealers, a mad scientific experiment gone awry, and even a scene where the hero has to defy orders from a snooty bureaucrat before storming off to fight the villain. It is in that scene where youíll find the classic dialogue exchange I opened the review with.
Top it all off, we have Van Damme playing an American army colonel, despite the fact that he seems to be going out of his way to make sure his Belgian accent is thicker than ever. True, his accent was always present in his other movies, but never at the distracting level that it is here. As if that wasnít enough, his Belgian overload randomly switches over to a channeling of Schwarzenegger when he utters the line, ďGET DA HOSTAGES OWWT!Ē.
We also have pop music sensation Kylie Minogue making her film debut as Guileís second in command, and the movie gives her absolutely nothing to do. Here you have one of the sexiest and most beautiful women to ever grace the pop music circuit, not to mention a great potential for eye candy, and for her first movie role she is kept in the background more than anyone else. Adding insult to injury, she hardly gets a chance to shine in the fighting scenes. What a shame.
The movie does have one thing going for it. Whoever was in charge of the costumes was clearly a die hard fan of the game. Every character in the movie eventually ends up in attire similar to their appearance in the video game. The only major exception is Col. Guileís blue camouflage, which never really bothered me quite much.
This also marked the final screen appearance of Raul Julia, who died shortly before the release of the movie. As bad as the movie is, his scenery chewing performance is the only thing keeping it from being a worse movie. It would be easy to assume that an actor of Juliaís caliber did this for a paycheck, but in actuality he wanted to do the movie because his kids were huge fans of the game, and given his poor health condition you canít really blame him at all.
In retrospect, I should reduce my rating by half a star. But as far video game based movies go, Street Fighter was not as horrendously bad as the likes of Super Mario Bros. or Mortal Kombat. In fact, I can even see it being enjoyable in a so-bad-itís-good kind of fashion. As it stands, though, it remains a movie that did no real justice for either the video game or Van Dammeís career at the time.
As it turns out, the game will be getting a theatrical reboot in a few weeks with the release of Street Fighter: The Rise of Chun-Li, courtesy of Doom director Andrzej Bartkowiak. Iíve got my fingers crossed, and my expectations very low.
There was actually a point when I owned a used copy of the original DVD release of this movie. It was released at the dawn of the format, as indicated by a non-anamorphic presentation. Thanks to both Universal and the miracle of Blu-ray, the movie has now gotten a proper anamorphic treatment, and it looks most spectacular. Having mainly watched a slew of newer movies on Blu-ray, it was astonishing to see that a release from nearly 15 years ago can look just as amazing. There are many bright colors in the movie, in everything from the Southeast Asia set to the outlandish costumes, which the HD format brings out the best in. The picture is loaded with great detail and a superior form of clarity, indicating that Blu-ray can make sour movies look incredibly SWEET!
The same can be said for the pure knockout of a DTS HD mix supplied to this release. The movie consists of action, fighting, more action, more fighting, occasional cheesy Van Damme one liners, and lots more action. Joking aside, the sound mix is pretty much loud and furious right from the opening scene. The music score definitely sounds more bombastic than ever, in a good way, and dialogue delivery is terrifically clear all the way through, which is vital especially with those Van Damme one liners. Itís a largely impressive treatment that, once again, illustrates the many wonders of Blu-ray!
For this Extreme Edition release, nothing spectacularly new has been added in the way of extras. The only new features are three trailers for the upcoming Street Fighter IV video game, which are all in HD. The remaining extras have been carried over from the Collectorís Edition DVD, released in 1998. They include a commentary with writer/director Steven de Souza, a Making of Featurette, Deleted Scenes and Outtakes, Storyboard Sequences, Advertising Archives, two video game sequences from two different Street Fighter games and a sampling of the Cyberwalk Street Fighter Internet Site. Also featured is the BD Live option, and all extras can be accessed as the movie is playing.
Revisiting Street Fighter for the first time in almost a decade brought with it both an advantage and a disadvantage. It made me realize that this was one of the many movies I enjoyed in my youth, only to realize later in life that itís actually pretty crappy. However, seeing it on Blu-ray made the crappiness a lot more tolerable.
Let me end this with a personal request to Universal; Please release Sudden Death on Blu-ray as soon as you possibly can! You will be making me one extremely happy camper!