Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Street Fighter”

Dear Frank,

Aren’t there movies that we, as a society, have agreed to pretend didn’t happen? I had thought so. I had believed that we were a civilized people, that we would accept our mistakes as a race and move past them as best we can. But for some reason I don’t ever want to understand, HBO decided to prove me wrong.

But here’s what’s interesting: Once I started watching? I really couldn’t stop. There is something captivating about how thoroughly Street Fighter says “Fuck You” to the audience and to good taste. So amazing, was the level of terrible splayed out before me.

I suppose I should own some of the blame for watching Street Fighter this weekend. But really, I’m pretty sure it’s HBO’s fault, for making the movie available on HBO Go. (Otherwise a fine service that I appreciate coming free with my cable subscription.)

Frank, to break down for you every single moment of this movie that is awful, makes no sense or actively rejects logical thought, would take an effort that’s frankly beyond me. There are simply too many moments that challenge your understanding of how bad a film can be.

But here’s the super-short version of the plot: There’s this city somewhere in the Asian area of the world, I guess, called Shadaloo, and it’s been taken over by the evil dictator M. Bison. A fake version of the UN called the Allied Nations has sent a peacekeeping force or whatever into the region, led by Guile Jean-Claude Van Damme (yes, JCVD did go to the trouble of bleaching his hair for the role, but otherwise he’s just playing Jean-Claude Van Damme, Guy Who Is Good At Kicking Things).

Also on the scene are journalist Chun-Li, her partners Balrog and E. Honda, con men/vaguely homoerotic BFFs Ryu and Ken, crime lord Sagat, and super-sexy bullfighter Vega. Bison has taken some hostages, which makes the AN mad, and Guile’s in charge of a military operation to rescue them.

(Note: The fact that, thanks to video game screens growing up, I not only remember all these fucking character names, but remember how to spell them correctly, is a clear sign that I have not quite killed my brain with alcohol yet.)

All of those guys eventually end up at M. Bison’s secret lair to rescue said hostages, along with AN officer Cami (aw, yay, Kylie Minogue!), and Dr. Dhalsim, who’s reluctantly in charge of a series of experiments to create the ultimate killing machine out of one of the hostages, who happens to be a bestie of Guile’s. That ultimate killing machine? Blanka. Who looks like this:


I mean, really, where do I start? The scene where Bison and Sagat meet up at a big fancy desert party that Chung-Li and her fellas infiltrate by posing as a magic act? Bison’s countless, endless monologues? The part where Dhalsim tries to undermine his work by feeding Blanka images of love and peace instead of hate? The fact that 90 percent of this movie’s dialogue is technically monologue? By which I mean 90 percent of what is said on screen consists of people ranting at the camera, like this inspiring JCVD speech:

“Troopers! I have just received new orders. Our superiors say the war is cancelled, and we can all go home. Bison is getting paid off for his crimes, and our friends will have died here… will have died for nothing. But… we can all go home. Meanwhile, ideals like these – freedom, and justice – they get packed up. But… we can all go home. Well… I’m not going home. I’m gonna get on my boat, and I’m going up-river, and I’m going to kick that son-of-a-bitch Bison’s ass so HARD… that the next Bison wanna-be is gonna feel it. Now who wants to go home… and who wants to go with ME!

Or Chung Li explaining her backstory to Bison:

It was twenty years ago. You hadn’t promoted yourself to general yet. You were just a petty drug lord. Huh! You and your gang of murderers gathered your small ounce of courage to raid across the border for food… weapons… Slave labor. My father was the village magistrate. A simple man with a simple code: justice. He gathered the few people that he could to stand against you. You and your bullies were driven back by farmers with pitchforks! My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away! A hero… at a thousand paces.

I mean, there are multiple scenes of this movie devoted to getting all of the characters into their outfits from the game, even though those outfits include a mini-dress and a sumo outfit, entirely so that the movie can end like this:

Being able to achieve that shot (a replica of a scene from the video game) was more important than telling a coherent story. That’s all you need to know about this movie, Frank. Really.

How bad is this movie? It makes Mortal Kombat into an unrecognized masterpiece. This is why: 75 percent of Street Fighter is devoted to a) getting all of the characters into the same location and b) coming up with scientifically flimsy explanations for how a green guy with green hair and a crazy yogi with Mr. Fantasic arms could exist in the real world.

Meanwhile, all anyone watching is thinking is “I just want to see the dudes from the video game fight!” Which is why Mortal Kombat, in its infinite wisdom, just says “Fuck it, everyone meets on this island for a crazy fighting tournament, and the weird-looking dudes are gods or demons or whatever.” That right there? That is giving the people what they want.

If I knew what the people wanted all the time, Frank, this website would get a lot more hits. But of one thing, I am sure — the people do not want to see Raul Julia, one of the 20th century’s most underrated raw acting talents, waste his final performance like this:

“What’s the matter? You come to fight a madman, and instead find a god? Do you still refuse to accept my godhood? Keep your God! In fact, now may be a good time to pray to Him! For I beheld Satan as he came down from Heaven!” To be fair, Raul sells the shit out of it.

Street Fighter is dedicated to Raul, with a touching note of “Vaya Con Dios” (Go with God). Which is nice! It remains, however, a strong contender for the title of Most Regrettable Posthumuous Film Ever, rivaled only by Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie.

If you can think of one that’s worse, I challenge you to post it in the comments. Because, seriously. Frank, let me leave you with just one of the many amazing moments of dialogue from this movie: “It’s the Collection Agency, Bison. Your ass is six months over due, and it’s mine.”

Wise words, Frank. Wise words.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on May 24, 2012, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ouch. Well, I don’t think I can top that one, but have you seen “Rhinestone” yet?

  2. Hey, Mortal Kombat *is* an unrecognized masterpiece!

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