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SECOND LOOK: Street Fighter

Written by Robert Porter

The first time I saw Street Fighter was in theaters in 1994. I remember walking out after the film had ended, and even as a twelve-year-old, I felt that there was something wrong. I have been a fan of Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise since the very first time I played Street Fighter II: The World Warrior at a classmate’s birthday party at United Skates (do those still exist?). Yet, what I saw on screen in the 1994 film was vastly different than what was portrayed on screen in arcades. There have been many complaints against the film, mostly surrounding characterization: Guile isn’t American, Ken and Ryu…well, they’re con-men, Charlie Nash is Blanka, Dee Jay is a bad guy. The list goes on. Indulge me, if you will, in a short history lesson and the personal journey I undertook that changed my mind about this movie and why I feel that Street Fighter deserves a second look.

I have a strong love for action movies, particularly those from the 1980s. Many times I have seen Die Hard listed as a favorite among internet bloggers and reviewers, and it often makes the top of lists that concern the finest action movies ever made. I don’t totally disagree. I love Die Hard. I love the entire franchise…mostly. In fact, there are times when Die Hard With a Vengeance slightly edges out the original for me. Sure, Die Hard has the right amount of action, humor and one liners blended together to create an experience that is a blast to watch (plus Alan Rickman’s excellent performance as Hans Gruber, I mean c’mon). Yet, when I sit down and think of my most watched action films, there is only one that comes to mind. By a long shot. That film is 1985’s Commando.

I have seen Commando so many times that I have had dreams about it. I bought the Blu-ray when it came out, and the original DVD is still on my shelf along with it. I refused to do a trade in; I needed both versions. Soon, I was obsessed. I wanted to know everything I could possibly know about it. The film was endlessly rewatchable to me and I needed to know why. During my search for answers, the name Steven de Souza kept coming up. I’m not certain to what capacity de Souza worked on the script for Commando, but he does have a story credit as well. Something about his name rang a bell to me though, and when I researched him further, I was shocked to learn that he has numerous writing credits on films and television series that I greatly enjoy. Those credits include the aforementioned Die Hard, as well as The Running Man, 48 Hrs., and episodes of Tales From the Crypt, The Six Million Dollar Man and Knight Rider. Wow. It was in this frenzy of research that I also learned that de Souza had written and directed Street Fighter. At first I was stunned. How could this man, who has had a hand in some of the great action movies of our time, have fallen from grace? That is what I thought.

But it was not to be!

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So I went out and bought Street Fighter. A simple renting would not suffice, as I was going to have to watch and rewatch it many times to solve this mystery. I think I got Street Fighter for less than five dollars brand new, and with my new found knowledge in hand, I was pleasantly surprised. It has some decent action, and Jean-Claude Van Damme even pulls off Guile’s signature “flash kick” with absolutely no effects trickery. The film also features Raul Julia in his final big screen appearance before his unfortunate passing, and he completely steals the show as Shadowloo overlord M. Bison. But the most important thing about Street Fighter is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. At all. There are a ton of silly lines in the film, such as the tragically inept Zangief’s “change the channel!” I’m not saying that Street Fighter deserves to be placed among such greats as Die Hard or Commando, but it is damn fun to watch. While I used to think it was fun for all the wrong reasons, I have come to realize that it is indeed fun for all the right ones.

Given de Souza’s track record, it becomes more clear that Street Fighter is intended to be a fun, mindless action movie. The film succeeds on that count, while it can be argued that it fails as a video game adaptation. It is my personal opinion that it does indeed fail as the latter, but I can’t think of a video game adaptation that was any good in the first place. At least Street Fighter can be enjoyed in the company of friends (or alone), while other video game movies like Super Mario Bros. only serve as an alternative to sleep aids like Ambien (although Super Mario Bros. may not be any safer in large doses).

With my new found appreciation for Street Fighter, I have been happy to reintroduce it to some of my friends and they agree that it has actually aged quite well, and holds up as a decent action movie. Rather than have the movie in my “bad” section, Street Fighter sits in the last slot on my action movie shelf, and I am proud to own it. I feel that it’s all a matter of how one approaches the film: as a video game adaptation it leaves much to be desired, mostly due to the numerous departures from the source material. Although the argument could be made that de Souza’s Street Fighter still manages to be more faithful than the poorly received (read: horrendous) Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Fans who are looking for a more accurate interpretation of Street Fighter II need look no further than the 1994 animated film, appropriately titled, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. However, fans of action movies in the vein of Commando should have little to argue with while watching de Souza’s often hilarious vision of the world of Street Fighter.

I implore you to revisit this overlooked gem and give it another chance. Grab a six pack (or your favorite refreshment), call some friends, and forget everything you thought you knew about Street Fighter. Keep an open mind, and prepare for some laughs and a whole lot of fun.

Has this article persuaded you to rewatch Street Fighter? If so, has your opinion changed? Let us know in the comments section, or hit up our Twitter Page!

About the author

Robert Porter