Thursday, January 20th, 2022
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Jan 20, 2022
By Austin Trunick
Trouble’s brewing in Shadaloo. The small nation’s been taken over by the despotic general M. Bison (Raul Julia), who holds sixty-odd international hostages for a $20 billion ransom—money that he’ll use to develop an army of mutant super-soldiers, and further his plans for world domination. Seemingly all that stands in his way are the dwindling military forces of the Allied Nations, led by Colonel Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme)—who’s made it his personal mission to take Bison down.
Based on the massive arcade hit Street Fighter II, there are of course a dozen other named characters that needed to be squeezed in to please the game’s young fans, sell action figures, and pad out the movie’s paper-thin storyline. Television news anchor-slash-secret superspy Chun Li (Ming Na-Wen) also has a personal vendetta to resolve with M. Bison, who murdered her father when he attacked their village. Ken and Ryu are two-bit arms dealers who get roped into infiltrating Sagat’s criminal organization. Charlie Blanka is Guile’s military bestie who becomes the unwilling guinea pig in Bison’s super-soldier experiment—imbuing him with superhuman strength, green skin, and an unruly orange mane. Really, the gang’s all here: Zangief, Balrog, Vega, Cammy, E. Honda, and even Dhalsim. They don’t have a ton to do, but hey, they’re here.
Street Fighter (1994) was almost fully financed by Capcom, the company behind the game, and produced by Ed Pressman, whose illustrious credits included a surprisingly similar film based on a toy, Masters of the Universe (1987). It came at the height of Van Damme’s box office power, immediately following his hit turn in Timecop, and the Belgian’s fee ate up nearly a quarter of the film’s $35 million budget. The rest was shot at a breakneck pace, first in Thailand—where shoddy facilities and political unrest led them to scrap most of their footage—and then on soundstages in Australia, so that the movie could meet its Christmas 1994 release date. As a result, the movie’s budget appears stretched thin—bad guys wear camo military uniforms that look like something you’d buy from a Cabela’s, and the sets—in particular, Bison’s sinister laboratory—look like something you’d see in one of the many Power Rangers knock-offs from the mid-90s.
Still, Street Fighter has charm—especially to viewers who can accept that this was a kids’ movie, and not hold their breaths for too much Van Damme action. The highlight of the film is easily the 1000% committed performance from Raul Julia, who was very sick at the time but didn’t let that stop him from acting the living hell out his villainous role. (Like Masters of the Universe’s memorable Skeletor, Frank Langella, Julia signed onto the film because his kids were big fans of the source material.) Not once do you get the sense he thought the material was beneath him—not even when he’s rigged up on a wire and flying slowly and awkwardly toward Van Damme with his fists extended.
Mill Creek’s steelbook Blu-ray edition of the movie is awesome—there are far better Van Damme movies out there that don’t have bonus materials one tenth as robust as what you’ll find here. Many archival featurettes can still be found here, including deleted scenes, and Making Of mini-doc, and the unedited news broadcast that opens the film, but the new attractions include brand new Ballyhoo Pictures interviews with writer-director Steven DeSouza, Ed Pressman, Ming-Na Wen, actor Damian Chapa, and composer Graeme Revell, an overview of JCVD’s Universal years with action films expert david j. moore, and a look at the Street Fighter video games by pop culture historian Oliver Harper. Let’s hope whoever finally snags the rights to put out a Bloodsport 4K UHD puts half as much love into that release as went into this one.
Street Fighter’s no perfect movie, or even a half-perfect movie, but it’s a lot of fun, and sure to hold a soft spot for anyone who was young enough to be part of its target audience in the early ‘90s. This Blu-ray’s great, and sure to please the movie’s fans.