Street Fighter (UK - BD)
Leigh Riding chuckles his way through the 1994 live action adaptation on BD...
Based upon the classic one-on-one tournament beat 'em up game from the 1990s, this adaptation does not concern itself with foolish follies such as faithfulness to the source material, and places the characters in a bout-free Bond style plot involving a NATO-lite force led by Guile (Jean Claude Van Damme) attempting to foil the world domination plans of evil Bison (Raul Julia). General bouts of shooting and very little street fighting ensues, and I die a little inside.
Ahhh, the mighty Street Fighter! How could this gem of a movie have taken this long to reach Hi-Def? Harking from the days of cinema when Jean Claude actually had theatrical hits and the phrase 'a large dose of VD' meant something far more positive, it has to be said my advancing years have rendered this far less entertaining than it did when I was eighteen, but I can also see the sense of the absurd most of the cast perform their parts with far more clearly than before. For such a poor script, this first-time directorial effort from Die Hard scribe Steven de Souza has quite a roster of talent, with actors such as Julia, Wes Studi and Ming-Na treating the whole shebang with just the right amount of camp.
The cast in general are rather well cast visually, with the majority of the cast looking very close to their pixelated counterparts. Mind you, Damian Chapa is not only so far removed from Ken visually, suggesting last minute recasting, he's so wooden it's tempting to believe he arrived on set in flat-pack form from Ikea. Special mention must also go to the bizarre casting of Australian pop pixie Kylie Minogue as a tough British soldier Cammy, and the transformation of Blanka from feral beast into a Troll Doll. Van Damme apparently has no sense of humour either, playing Guile fairly straight, and as a result he comes across as rather daft. It would appear that Van Damme never learns from his mistakes, as he appeared years later in the de Souza penned and utterly surreal Knock Off, the film that finally killed off Jean Claude's theatrical career.
There is no denying that this film will have gaming fanboys frothing at the mouth at the dearth of tournament fighting, but for those not terribly interested in adherence to the games, what is served up is a fluffy war movie closer in tone to GI Joe, although slightly more violent than I expected (this is the uncut version of the film, released for the first time in the UK, for those interested in that type of thing). Even then, the film is pretty flat in its execution.
For a big budget Columbia film, everything seems rather cheap and flimsy; one can only imagine the faces of the studio execs during the first screening. Watching this again, I can see the lighter tone that I'm hoping was intended, but it's all a little toe-curling. While this is a fairly poor film, it still floats far above the likes of Double Dragon in the dregs of dodgy videogame adaptations, and is best viewed with friends, beers, and the largest pizza you've ever seen.
It doesn't take a great leap in directorial imagination to come up with the fact that Street Fighter needs a striking and cartoonish colour palette, and the 1080p image sells the film well, with the frames practically bursting with primary colours. Although it's always seems that the film has a rather flat depth of field (perhaps to mimic the 2D nature of the game backgrounds, but I doubt it), everything is in fine detail, looking lovely and sharp. The image occasionally looks a little dark, meaning the heavy blacks tend to swamp other elements occasionally. The print is buffed to a high sheen, and the fifteen year old material shows no sign of wear and tear. In all, it's a nice transfer, but it won't blow your socks off.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is probably best described as 'perfunctory'. Aside from the meaty kick and punch effects, the track sits in a rather unspectacular middle ground. While dialogue is nice and upfront, there seems to be little going on of note in the surrounds, with score getting short thrift in the mix and the battle sequences and gunfire seeming spread fairly thinly. It's not the most impressive BD track I've ever heard, but it's definitely an improvement over the old standard def track, so no great damage done here.
Seeing as de Souza has only directed two movies, it's a small consolation that I will only ever have to potentially sit through one more of the man's dull, dull commentaries in the rest of my life. Although occasionally informative, the track is filled with technical titbits, and took me three attempts to stay awake through. The most disappointing thing about the track however, is that it's a fourteen year old commentary cribbed from the laserdisc, making the 'special edition' claim seem a little cheeky.
The rest of the disc is equally undeserving of the 'special edition' tag. First up is an EPK presented in full screen standard def, and is rather falsely labelled as a ‘Making of’, two average deleted scenes, a gallery of original character art, a Street Fighter IV game Trailer and a trailer for the anime spin-off. Mind you, this disc has no release date as of yet, making the recent game tie-in redundant. It would probably be more appropriate to tie in with the forthcoming movie sequel, but there you go. It's also worth noting that this disc omits the extended infomercials from the movie that appear on the US version of the Blu-ray.
Street Fighter is definitely a guilty pleasure, and there is some backhanded fun to be had while watching it while placing your tongue firmly in your cheek, but there's no getting around the fact that it's simply not very good. Fans of the game will be better served by the 1994 anime version of the game, and while this film is not nearly as bad as say, Dead Or Alive, people looking for a film of this type should stick with Paul Anderson's far more faithful and superior (to this film, anyway) Mortal Kombat. If you do genuinely like this movie, then this version is the one to plump for.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 20th July 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 French, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English SDH, Finnish, French, Greek, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Extras: Commentary with Writer/Director Steven de Souza, Two Deleted Scenes, The Making of Street Fighter, Street Fighter Tribute Gallery, Street Fighter IV Game Trailer, Street Fighter IV Anime Trailer, Trailers, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steven E. de Souza
Cast: Jean Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Kylie Minogue, Byron Mann, Damian Chapa
Length: 105 minutes
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