For the third installment of You Got Some Video Games in my Movies, I take a look at Raul Julia's swan song, Street Fighter. This review will not go into very much detail when it comes to the differences between the characters in the games and the ones on-screen. While I've played a bit of the games, I wouldn't call myself a fan, exactly, so the extent of the comparisons will be limited to physical appearances. Fear not! Their appearances alone are hilarious enough to fill a lot of space with goofy pictures of everyone involved.
As promised, here are pictures of the Street Fighter video game characters side-by-side with their movie counterparts. Fair warning, this will get ugly over time.
Chun-Li: Okay, not so bad.
Cammy: ...Kylie Minogue? Sure, whatever. Two-for-two so far (She needs less pants, though.).
Vega: Man, the casting in this movie is actually pretty good!
Zangief: Yep, looks about right.
E Honda: Well, now he's Hawaiian instead of Japanese, but he's big and fat. Thumbs up.
Balrog: I guess he's black, so they paid at least that much attention.
Ryu: Umm, wait, hold on a second.
Ken: Dammit, I should have known it was too good to last.
Blanca: OH MY GOD NO.
T Hawk: You know, that's pretty offensively bad.
Dhalsim: At least they didn't make him fight.
Sagat: You must lash out with every limb, like the octopus who plays the drums.
Dee Jay: I'll admit it's a better fit than Juwanna Mann.
M Bison: Sure, he looks the part, but how is his Psycho Crusher and Scissor Kick?
Guile: They needed an action star. Who did you expect, Michael Dudikoff?
Street Fighter occupies a weird space for me. It's stupid and doesn't take place in any semblance of reality, but I kind of enjoyed watching it. The characters are uniformly awful, and the plot seems to revolve around trying to shoehorn in as many characters from the games as humanly possible, but I still found some entertainment value underneath all of that crap. Maybe there's something wrong with me, I don't know. I blame the color palette of the '90s.
I mean, let's be serious for a moment. In a movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, there are a total of two - two - comprehensible fighting moves from him. The only time he does anything besides walking around and speaking craptastic dialogue is at the very end when he fights Bison. Even then, all the fight boils down to is close-ups of the beginnings of so-called strikes and then cuts to the other's reaction. It's totally understandable, mind you, because Raul Julia is not a martial artist or an athlete. He was obviously picked because he sort of resembles Bison, and he has a lot of gravitas. That's great, but how in the hell can you pit a guy like that against Van Damme? In all possible worlds, that will never turn out well. Ever.
What is Raul Julia supposed to to about that?
Now, on the flip side of the coin, I think I enjoyed watching Van Damme's performance for the same reason he seemingly enjoyed giving it: He didn't have to do a damn thing. It's strangely amusing to watch him in a role where he doesn't have to do any heavy lifting in the action department even though he's still supposed to be the star. All he has to do is show up, read a few lines, do a couple of kicks, and he's home in time for Corn Flakes. He could have phoned it in a little more, but at least to me, he added some extra ham to balance out the lack of physical work. I think he felt guilty at the fact he was getting paid to simply exist as Jean-Claude Van Damme. Am I over-analyzing Van Damme's method (or lack thereof) acting as Colonel William F. Guile in Street Fighter? Most likely, the answer is yes. But I'm sticking to my theory so I can continue liking this bad, bad movie.
As for Julia, I can't decide if it was a brilliant performance in the middle of a shitty movie or just him trying to come up with something to do with the turd of a character that is M. Bison. It's probably because he has that presence about him that screams evil genius. Come to think of it, a lot of that had to do with his constant, crazy, bug eyes.
Told you. Bug eyes.
Typically, in these kinds of roles - and in these kinds of movies - the bad guy is eye-rollingly bad at being intimidating. Julia pulls it off, though, but only when he's not actually fighting. Then, he's just an actor out of his element as he flies around on wires and tries to be Shakespearean while yelling "For I beheld Satan as he came down from Heaven...with lightniiiiiiinnnngggggg!" Directly after which he flies forward with his electromagnetic hover boots and tries to punch Van Damme in the face.
The rest of the cast is just laughable, but in the oh-it's-so-adorable-that-you-did-that kind of way. Even the character names are painfully stupid when they're said out-loud. Who the fuck is named Balrog or T Hawk in the real world?
It's hard to be consistent with what I'm about to say, because movies I don't like do the exact same thing, but I laughed a hearty laugh when it showed Bison using a Street Fighter arcade console to control his many evil machines. I guess it's a case-by-case basis kind of situation.
And in this case, it's fucking hilarious.
Street Fighter is just one of those things. I can't accurately describe why I'm able to put up with the stupidity of it all, but it didn't disappoint in my first viewing of it in over a decade. Did you know that the director, Steven E. de Souza, is credited as a writer for such movies as 48 Hrs., Commando, The Running Man, and Die Hard? What the hell is he doing directing this garb...oh, wait. He also wrote The Flintstones, Judge Dredd, and Beverly Hills Cop III. Consistency is not his middle name. Still, I have to say, this one could have been a lot worse.