After quite liking Mortal Kombat and hating Annihilation, it’s safe to say that I have already had mixed feelings this week. Street Fighter was always going to go in one of those directions. Half the people I know who have seen it think it’s utter garbage. The other half will still admit it’s not a great movie but enjoy it all the same. I went into this feeling a little low after Annihilation and I really was not sure how I would be able to take another loss when I still had three films ahead of me this week. I am about to spoil the entire review here: I thought Street Fighter ruled.

Again, I must stress – this is by all means not a good movie. However, in this case there is no pretense about what they were going for when making it. It wants to be a big, dumb, campy 90s action movie and what we got was a big, dumb, campy 90s action movie. A part of its campy appeal is that all the characters take what is going on so seriously that it adds to the fun of the movie as a whole – if Street Fighter had tried to be a comedy this would have been a lot less fun, oddly enough. Instead they give us a sincere attempt to give us an action movie and it fails on a few levels but boy did it give me a good time in doing so.

Street Fighter the movie pits the evil forces of M. Bison (Raul Julia) against the heroic Allied Nations army led by Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme). M. Bison has kidnapped a bunch of aid workers and will kill them in 72 hours unless he receives $20 billion. Guile, along with his big cast of allies that includes Cammy, Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda and Balrog, are all battling against M. Bison in their own ways – Chun-Li is a reporter trying to avenge M. Bison killing her dad while Ryu and Ken get caught up in a gun deal gone bad and are recruited by Guile as spies that will lead the AN to Bison’s hideout. Bison is not alone either he’s got allies including Sagat (with Vega), Deejay, Zangief and an imprisoned Dhalsim who is forced to conduct an experiment on Guile’s friend Blanka to turn him into a creature like in the games.

It’s not going to win any screenwriting awards but the plot does the job of giving a bunch of characters we vaguely recognise and making them fight. The first Mortal Kombat film did a good job in incorporating the story of the video game into the plot of the movie. Street Fighter takes certain elements from the game but otherwise does not try too hard to be super married to the original games. This is similar to Super Mario Bros. where you could change the name of the film and the characters within it and people probably would have liked it more at the time.

That being said, this film belongs to one man and one man only. Yeah, Jean-Claude Van Damme is fine and sure Zangief gets most of the laughs but come on. If you have seen Street Fighter you know that Raúl Julía’s name must be respected. He is so good that it elevates the entire film. Julía either gave Street Fighter every drop of effort he could muster or he realised what kind of film this is and went all out to have as much fun as possible with it. It works so well – he is truly fantastic in this film and any scene he is in is a treat. This film did not deserve Raúl Julía and neither did we.

Zangief is my other favourite and he did not get the screen time of Bison, but he made me smile almost every time he popped up. Honestly, I don’t know what it is, I just really enjoyed Street Fighter. I have things I am negative on of course, but I don’t think it took too much away from my enjoyment. Yes, Kylie Minogue, god bless her, was so out of place here and Van Damme playing an American hero but not being able to hide his accent ends up making Guile a weird character (though, again, it kinda added to the overall charm a little bit for me). The plot does not spring up any surprises – you know how it will end as soon as you start watching it. I don’t think the actual fighting, apart from a couple of scenes, is particularly great and not a single Sonic Boom or Hadoken is performed. It would have looked odd for an otherwise grounded in reality film for supposedly normal dudes suddenly throwing big-ass fireballs at each other but screw it, one would not have hurt. I mean, it would hurt, a lot, but not the movie.

I need to reiterate – this is not a good film. This is a bad film. I liked it more than Mortal Kombat and it is Gone With the Wind compared to MK: Annihilation, but I can see people who are not into this sort of movie hating every second of it. That is a fine and valid response. It’s not the response I have. I personally had a good time watching Street Fighter. If you like campy 90s action movies, this is a treat – like a neapolitan ice cream. You will either hate all the flavours involved, or only like one or two or love all three. I personally like all three flavours in a neapolitan ice cream and that is why I like Street Fighter the movie.


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