With a vast army of street fighters from South-East Asia to do his bidding, psychotic fascist warlord General M. Bison (Raul Julia) is holding a group of 63 westerners hostage in the (fictitious) country of Shadaloo and has demanded a ransom of $20 billion from the world governing body – payable within 72 hours, or the hostages die.
Maybe director Steven E. de Souza (the screenwriter of Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Commando and The Running Man here making his directorial debut) thought the United Nations would sue for defamation if he used their logo and name, but the “Allied Nations” (or A.N.) soldiers all wear blue berets and are obviously from many nations!
Colonel William Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) leads a peace-keeping force charged with the rescue of the hostages.
First, however, he must locate Bison’s secret underground fortress and enlists would-be gun-runners Ken Masters (Damian Chapa) and Ryu Hoshi (Byron Mann) to gain the good graces of Tong leader Viktor Sagat (Wes Studi), who will unsuspectingly lead them to Bison.
Adding an element of intrigue to the already complicated proceedings is TV reporter Chun-Li Zang (Ming-Na Wen), who is seeking personal revenge against Bison for her father’s death years ago, and is secretly a self-trained Ninja.
Based on the popular video game ‘Street Fighter II’ from Capcom (who footed the bill for the movie), Street Fighter is a delightful exercise in overkill.
There are more beefy pumped-up characters in this film than in Van Damme’s previous three films combined – and that’s just counting the women . . .
To be fair, both Wen and singing superstar Kylie Minogue (who plays Guile’s lieutenant, Cammy) prove themselves to be svelte and competent warriors.
De Souza translates video game action to the big screen with cartoonish over-the-top action and dialogue.
Everyone’s a fighter, not a lover, though there is one good-natured sex joke that would have flown right over the heads of the younger viewers.
Surprisingly, though, the film doesn’t have much street fighting, which is a disappointment. The action sequences are tame affairs – bloodless cartoon violence more laughable than scary.
But the film is full of self-mocking humour and campy over-the-top performances which make it bearable: in one scene, a cornered bad guy staring doom in the face mutters, “I should have stayed at Microsoft”. Another has a stupendously stupid bad guy watching a live news report of an imminent explosion at his own headquarters. “Quick, change the channel!” he bellows.
Filming conditions in Thailand were harsh, and Van Damme’s cocaine addiction at the time caused constant disruptions with the “muscles from Brussels” calling in sick, leaving the set unexpectedly, and showing up late or not at all.
Raul Julia was terminally ill with stomach cancer during filming and died soon after the movie was complete. The film is dedicated to him.
Although Street Fighter was panned by both critics and fans of the video games, it became a commercial success grossing $33 million domestically and $66 million worldwide.
Raul Julia’s performance was especially praised.
Watch out for former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Bugner as Bison’s torturer.
Colonel William Guile
Jean-Claude Van Damme
General M. Bison
Grand L. Bush
Carlos “Charlie” Blanka
Miguel A. Núñez Jr.
Peter Navy Tuiasosopo
Steven E. de Souza