Now that our RoboCop intermission is out of the way, let’s get back to those terrible video game adaptations. Next up . . .
I haven’t seen this since I was like nine. It was bad then.
It’s hilarious now.
Bison (Raul Julia) is a megalomaniacal dictator who’s holding a bunch of people hostage. Jean Claude Van Damme . . . er, I mean Guile . . . is his nemesis, and also the only, um, American colonel who can rescue them. Although a bunch of other characters from the game help.
1. Wow, where to start. Well, I guess Guile is as a good a place as any.
In the games, Guile is not really the main character. I mean, technically, there is no one main character in most of the games—it’s an ensemble of fighters—but everyone knows that the star of the show is Ryu, an annoying little shit who can take his hadouken! and shove it up his ass. (Yes, perhaps I wasn’t as good at Street Fighter as I was at other games. Bite me.) In the film, however, the focus is shifted to Guile, which is a little like making a Mortal Kombat movie starring Johnny Cage and relegating Liu Kang to useless comic relief.
Of course, that’s not nearly as funny as Jean Claude Van Damme playing an American colonel without even bothering to attempt an American accent. Honestly, Kevin Costner tries harder in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves than JCVD does in this. There’s also that unfortunate business of not being able to act. Okay, that’s not fair. This is really the only movie I’ve ever seen him in. I’ll get around to Time Cop eventually and reevaluate. But in this movie . . . he’s pretty bad.
2. Also? Guile’s sort of a schmuck. I’ll go into details during the Spoiler Section, but he’s basically responsible for everything that happens to his friend Blanka. And his clever little ruse to simulate a prison break? Yeah, that would have gotten people killed. Asshat.
3. And oy, let’s talk about Blanka. Fans of the game all over the world howled in protest at what Street Fighter did to Blanka’s backstory.
Writer Joe: Blanka is my favorite character. Who wouldn’t want to fight as a giant green monster with orange hair and an ability to electrocute people?
Writer Susan: He IS fun, Writer Joe. But WHY is he a green monster with orange hair and an ability to electrocute people? I’m not sure this whole feral child backstory works for me. I mean, we’ve just cast Jean-Claude Van Damme as our American lead. We’re trying to keep this movie as non-ridiculous as possible.
Writer Joe: Well, we can always fuck with Blanka’s backstory a little. Maybe he can be the product of some kind of evil experiment. Like, maybe they wanted to make a . . . a super soldier or something.
Writer Susan: I wasn’t aware that a super soldier needed to be green, Writer Joe.
Writer Joe: Worked in Old Man’s War, baby. Boo-yah!
Writer Susan: Well played, Writer Joe! Way to throw in a completely arbitrary literary reference.
Writer Joe: Thanks, Writer Susan.
Writer Susan: Your welcome, Writer Joe. So, here’s the idea. Our movie needs more heart, so why we don’t take a character who’s totally irrelevant to Blanka, like . . . dead Charlie! Yes, and because of the evil super soldier experiment, he’ll just turn IN to Blanka.
Writer Joe: That’s perfect, Writer Susan. Oh, but is Bison really the scientist type? I think we’ll need to horribly mutate another character to conduct the experiment for him. How about . . . Dhalsim?
Writer Susan: Why Dhalsim?
Writer Joe: Cause fuck Dhalsim, that’s why. I hated fighting that anorexic, super stretchy, floating yoga bitch.
4. The best character in this movie, of course, is M. Bison himself.
Saying Raul Julia is over the top in this film is a little like saying a shark bite might sting a bit. Julia sails over the top in Street Fighter, maybe moonwalks over it, and achieves some new level of cheesy mastery that had not previously been captured on camera before. I love him in this movie. He is wonderfully, ridiculously committed to the role, and he has pretty much all of the best lines in the film—because he makes that shit work.
Bison: “Something wrong, Colonel? You came here to fight a madman, and instead you found a GOD?”
Bison: “I hoped to meet Guile face-to-face on the battlefield, where we could engage each other in unarmed combat. Then I would snap his spine. But why? Why do they still call me a warlord? And mad? All I want to do is to create the perfect genetic soldier. Not for power, not for evil, but for good. Carlos Blanka shall be the first of many who shall march out of my laboratory and crush every adversary, every creed, every nation! Until the world is in the loving grip of the Pax Bisonica. And peace will reign and all humanity shall bow to me in humble gratitude.”
Chun-Li: You and your bullies were driven back by farmers with pitchforks! My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away! A hero… at a thousand paces.
Bison (cheerfully): I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it.
Chun Li: You don’t remember?
Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. For me, it was Tuesday.
Mind you, these are only a few examples. There are so many, many more.
5. According to Television Tropes and Idioms, Raul Julia took this part to make his grandchildren happy, knowing that he was dying of stomach cancer. I’m uncertain if this is completely true—Raul Julia actually died from complications of a stroke (though I suppose the cancer likely contributed to that), and other sources have indicated that Julia did not expect Street Fighter to be his last role (he was cast as Bucho in Desperado before his unexpected death)—but Julia certainly did take the role because his grandchildren loved the Street Fighter games, and that is still incredibly sweet.
RIP, Mr. Julia. You are still missed.
6. The other best bit of casting in Street Fighter: Andrew Bryniarski as Zangief.
Bryniarski is the kind of actor that just pops up all over the place—Firefly fans may remember his rather dramatic exit from “The Train Job”—and he is a perfect visual match for Zangief. It’s kind of uncanny, actually.
7. The same, sadly, cannot be said for Ken and Ryu. Here is what they look like in the game:
And here’s what they look like in the movie:
Well, not everyone can be an exact carbon copy. I don’t expect that. But what in the holy hell did the filmmakers do to these two characters? Since they wrested the lead away from Ryu and gave it our very favorite
Belgian American colonel Guile, what was left but to turn both of them into buddy comic relief con artists who aren’t even remotely funny?
At least Byron Mann, who plays Ryu, isn’t utterly useless . . . not when compared to Damian Chapa, anyway, who might be the most charmless version of the “irresponsible, selfish friend who learns to be good” that I’ve ever seen on film. Honestly, I was sort of hoping Ken might get blown up at some point, preferably with Guile nearby. He was just that annoying. I did not want him to live.
8. I’d say that the casting of Ming-Na (then, Ming-Na Wen) is actually one of the better things about this movie. She plays Chun-Li, and while a lot of the dialogue that she has is truly atrocious—I think she works it the best she can. She’s not exactly the Chun-Li I was hoping for . . . but I’m going to take a leap and say she’s better than Kristin Kreuk. Right? (Note: I’ve never seen Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Even for this marathon, I couldn’t quite make myself do it.)
9. There are a few different story lines in Street Fighter, and almost all of them suck. Obviously, I’m happy anytime M. Bison is on screen. And Chun-Li’s utterly ridiculous quest for revenge (“That’s exactly what I wanted you to think!”) is fun, too. But I start falling asleep almost anytime Ken and Ryu do anything. And Guile’s scenes really aren’t that much better. Van Damme’s best bits are when he’s facing off with Raul Julia. Otherwise, snore.
10. Finally, I like Dee Jay. Dee Jay is the funny evil henchman character. He’s clear about his motivations: he wants money. I respect that. But when you’re working for a completely psychotic dictator, you have to know when enough’s enough.
And Dee Jay? He knows when it’s quitting time.
Bison: “Then defeat is a possibility. Very well. We shall face it together, Dee Jay, with the stoicism of the true warrior.”
*Dee Jay, very quietly, backs away and leaves.*
Ha! Good for you, Dee Jay! I love cowards.
Now for some spoilers . . .
I’m not even sure why I bothered creating this section. The good guys win (unfortunately) and Bisonopolis is never created. Our world is sadder for it.
Especially since Guile is such an incompetent asshole.
Okay, so Guile and Carlos Blanka are best friends, right? Unfortunately, Blanka is one of the hostages captured in the beginning of the film. So Guile—while talking to Bison over live TV—tells his pal Charlie to stay strong. That’d be real sweet and all . . . except Bison is insane, not a moron, and quickly realizes that Charlie is a nickname for Carlos and that he has his nemesis’s best buddy in his grasp. So Bison specifically picks Blanka out of the crowd to be horrifically experimented on for most of the movie, purely because Guile couldn’t keep his fat fucking mouth shut.
I’d say thanks for fucking nothing, Guile . . . but it gets worse.
Towards the end of the film, Blanka and Guile get into a fight. Guile recognizes Blanka somehow (eyes are the window to the soul and whatnot, I guess) and manages to get through to him, reminding him that they’re friends and that Blanka doesn’t want to kill him. When Blanka backs down, does Guile go for the hug? The man pat? Apologize for outing him to Bison in the first place?
No, none of the above. Actually, Guile tries to murder Blanka.
It’s supposed to be a mercy kill, or something, like Blanka is better off dead, but . . . look, I’m not saying I want to be gigantic and green, myself, but I’d like to think I’d get a say on whether or not my ass gets euthanized. Guile, on the other hand, does not feel the need to ask Blanka’s input on the matter, or investigate to see if the process can be reversed, or even attempt to communicate with his old friend for more than three seconds before it’s like, “Hello, Charlie. Meet my gun!”
Thankfully, Dhalsim pops up to inform Guile that while Blanka’s all grrr, evil on the outside, he’s actually still good on the inside. Guile argues that for a minute—he argues that his friend needs to be murdered—but Dhalsim wins, and he and Blanka run off together. Guile then faces off with Bison, mano a mano, despite the fact that his officers beg him not to . . . as well as the fact that there’s a massive battle going on, and he could probably be more help supporting his troops or something . . . but, you know, that’s how these stories go. As long as the leader’s dead, that’s all that really matters.
While fighting, Guile manages to kill Bison once, but, awesomely, Bison’s prepared for that. His uniform resuscitates him back to life, not to mention makes him doubly strong and gives him the ability to fly. They fight for a little longer but, sadly, Guile manages to defeat Bison again, and more permanently this time too. This movie is a classic example of, Dammit, I wish the bad guy would win this one for once. (Another example? Under Siege. Tommy Lee Jones is just so much more fun than Steven Segal.)
Guile also manages to explodify the base, and there’s about half a second where very small children might worry that Guile is killed in the blast. Unfortunately, he survives, and all the characters do their victory poses from the game.
Okay, that’s actually kind of a cool homage.
Er, not that good. At all. But there are a couple of nice touches, like the picture above or the shot of the arcade controls. And Raul Julia makes it mostly watchable. Only for those who are serious about their camp and mockery, though.
Raul Julia. Obviously.
Fuck you, Guile. Seriously. You’re a shitty excuse for a hero.