Film Review
by J. C. Adamson

Street Fighter

Director: Steven E. de Souza 
Cast: Raul Julia, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Byron Mann 

RatingOK, If you like this sort of thing


Do you remember when you were ten, and you pretended that the Jungle Gym in the schoolyard was a pirate ship, or a castle?

Well, that's what's really going on in a movie like Street Fighter— they're pretending— only they have a multi-multi-million dollar budget.

There's no acting here, it's pretending. There's no story telling, there's no moral, or morality either for that matter, it's all pretending. In fact, the movie is based on a video game, of all things. So, if you're no older than early adolescence, or if you want to act that way for a couple of hours, Street Fighter should do it for you.

If you're a man, you'll get your adrenaline and testosterone flowing, and you'll be ready to follow Jean-Claude Van Damme into the belly of hell to kick bad guys' butts. If you're a woman, and you haven't already memorized Van Damme's steely eyes and bulging biceps, you'll get a study course in sex objectification, with lots of visual aids.

But if you're older than sixteen—or your mind is— and you want to experience a thought, or an emotion, or even a question during ninety-five minutes of entertainment, you should probably make another choice.

This was Raul Julia's last movie, and you get to see lots of him, as he plays General M. Bison, the bad guy in this flick. He's a mixture of Hitler, Hussein, Khadafi, and a few other enemies, probably heavy on the Hitler imagery.

The setting is the mythical land of Shadaloo, a Southeast Asian country. Its capital city seems to be a caricature of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Saigon. The events borrow a little from the Viet Nam War, some from Bosnia, a bit from Iran, and a lot from Desert Storm. (Ever notice how we gave that one a trade name, like we'd give to a product?) The special effects in this fantasy are nothing extraordinary, and in some cases are silly. There are lots of pyrotechnics in unrealistic situations. Sparks fly every time two pieces of metal strike, or whenever somebody is thrown against an equipment panel.

And the bullet fairy is everywhere. You know the bullet fairy; she makes all the good guys' bullets hit and all the bad guys' bullets miss. That way three commandos can carry off an attack against a hundred guards, without losing anybody they need for the next scene.

While some of this is harmless fun, at least one aspect of it bothered me a lot. The A. N. (Allied Nations) in this movie is an undisguised parody of the United Nations. They even have light blue helmets. Their peacekeeping efforts are treated as a joke. Diplomacy is scorned and ridiculed as appeasement, while risk, brutality and violence are idealized. The implication is that no peace is ever as good as any fight.

Van Damme's character, Colonel William Guile, defies the orders of his command, and incites his troops to follow him into an unauthorized attack. They win. Of course, the movie never shows an officer writing condolence letters to the parents of young people killed under his command. It never shows a wife holding her baby and crying as she reads a telegram telling of her husband's death. And it never shows the court martial, or war crimes trial, that Guile would surely have had to stand after his victory. Yeah, it's all pretend.

Do we prefer war, because peace just isn't exciting enough for us? Does this kind of film have an audience because art is just too challenging?


© 1996, J. C. Adamson

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