Welcome to Turkey Tuesday, where we take it upon ourselves to celebrate a “so bad it’s good” movie. And you know what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the Sharknados of the world, the ”The Rooms”. Those movies that you don’t want to admit you love, but you know you do. We’re kicking off this special with something truly meaningful to our hearts – the big-screen adaptation of Capcom’s Street Fighter. (Well, the first one – if you think we’re going to watch the abysmal The Legend of Chun-Li again, you’re nuts.)
A Quick Recap
Released in 1994, Street Fighter is essentially an all-star Saturday morning cartoon written and directed by Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard). It stars Jean Claude Van Damme as the one and only Colonel Guile, who’s out to stop the madman that is M. Bison, played by the late Raul Julia. Joining him for the ride is his second-in-command Cammy (Kylie Minogue), along with a handful of others.
Yeah…this doesn’t sound like the plotline of the game. In fact, Ryu and Ken are reduced to secondary roles compared to Guile. Worse yet, Zangief, a dedicated Russian bear wrestler, is nothing more than comic relief. (“You got PAID?!”) E. Honda and Balrog are now members of a camera crew, and Blanka looks like something out of a B-grade horror movie. This movie isn’t exactly known for its subtlety.
Not a Bomb, Surprisingly, Unlike Its Follow-Up
Yet, somehow, the movie made a profit. Not billions of dollars like Spider-Man: No Way Home, mind you, but still enough to be somewhat respectable. That may be what prompted Capcom to try again with The Legend of Chun-Li, although, honestly, that movie is just bad. It makes the first Street Fighter look like Citizen Kane. For serious. M. Bison is a BUSINESSMAN in that movie. Michael Clarke Duncan is completely wasted in his Balrog role. Don’t even get us started on the fact that Chun-Li isn’t played by an Asian actress either.
Anyway, back to Street Fighter. It was considered a joke by many video game fans at the time, mainly because it didn’t follow the lore of the games. Apparently, though, they never saw Super Mario Bros. The Movie (or maybe they did), so, honestly, they shouldn’t have expected that much.
So…Why Does It Work Now?
The idea of enjoying Street Fighter is to embrace its silliness. Of course, it’s silly. That was de Souza’s focus, to make it a Saturday morning serial. Sure, it has some story elements here and there, but they’ve brushed it aside for a fun showdown between Guile and Bison. Not to mention the other fights, which are way better than they have any right to be. (Even Wes Studi from Mystery Men looks kind of bad-ass as Sagat.)
De Souza made it clear that he did things wrong with the movie. Yet, looking back, he did some stuff that manages to click when it comes to its cornball nature. The dialogue, for example. It’s the stuff of legend, whether it’s Julia’s bellowing of “It was Tuesday” or Van Damme’s “And who wants to come with ME?” speech. It all comes together beautifully.
There’s even an homage to Godzilla at one point, with Honda and Zangief fighting in a small city. If you can’t look at that and guffaw at the pure silliness of a film like this, then you can’t be helped. Not everything has to be Die Hard, guys. In fact, it helps to have fun with movies like this. (Hence the logic of embracing bad films.)
Street Fighter’s Performances…Well, Some of Them…
Most of Street Fighter’s performances are a mixed bag. It also astounds us how Van Damme was able to keep a stable face throughout the production since we’ve heard that he was coked out of his mind the whole time. That said, the movie is notable for a good handful of its performances.
As we mentioned above, Wes Studi makes a great Sagat (even if he doesn’t show off a chest scar); and we like Minogue as Cammy. (Dare we say we can’t get her out of our head?) When it comes down to it, however, two key performances are the standouts here.
The first is Ming-Na Wen as Chun-Li. That’s right, The Book of Boba Fett’s Ming-Na. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Ming-Na. This was one of her early pieces, years before she would voice Mulan in Disney’s cartoon of the same name. The fact of the matter is, she nails it. She’s fun to watch as Chun-Li. The way she plays off Julia’s Bison is a treat. Not to mention she can fight like a bandit – but anyone who watched the shows above knows this. It never gets old watching her.
Honestly, though, this comes down to one thing…
Quite simply the main reason you’d want to watch Street Fighter is Raul Julia. This was his final big-screen endeavor before his untimely passing, and he was actually suffering from symptoms during production. So…why did he take the role? His kids. He wanted to show them how much fun he could have with the role, and he didn’t let us down.
Julia takes command of the screen every minute he’s in it, having absolute fun with his dialogue (“GAME…OVER!”) and his movements. He also had a field day shooting imaginary lightning from his hands, something we all dream of doing. (Admit it, you did it.) He just has a presence you can’t shake, and like his previous performances, he did so with gusto and grace. You can’t take your eyes off him.
“Keep your own God! In fact, this might be a good time to pray to him.” I mean, who doesn’t like that?
We miss you, Raul. Thank you for giving us such a performance to cherish.
Bottom Line: It’s Corny, But We Like It
A more serious adaptation of Street Fighter II came out with the animated movie years later. So if you want something that follows that lore specifically, go for that. However, if you want a good, rousing action flick with corny moments galore and an especially amazing performance by Raul Julia, do not hesitate to pick this up. You might have to wait till you get paid, but it’s worth it.
Also, how cool was it that we got a licensed game with all the actors from the film? Super Street Fighter II, it wasn’t, but who cares when you’re having fun beating people up with Raul Julia?
Streamer and Cosplay Enthusiast