The Films of Steven E. de Souza
Arnold's Wrecking Co.
Street Fighter (May 8/09)
It's not difficult to see why Street Fighter has acquired its less-than-positive reputation in the years since its 1994 theatrical release, as the film has been infused with a myriad of shamelessly over-the-top elements that inevitably become quite tough to take. There's little doubt, however, that the movie isn't quite as bad as its reputation might've led one to believe, with the engaging performances and gleefully tongue-in-cheek sensibilities of the script effectively sustaining the viewer's interest (up to a point, anyway). Street Fighter, based on the classic video game, follows Colonel William F. Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his fellow Allied Nations soldiers as they attempt to overthrow a ruthless dictator (Raul Julia's M. Bison) bent on world domination, with their efforts assisted by such familiar faces as Ming-Na Wen's Chun-Li, Robert Mammone's Carlos Blanka, and Damian Chapa's Ken Masters. Filmmaker Steven E. de Souza establishes an atmosphere of unapologetic campiness virtually from the get-go, as evidenced by the proliferation of one-liners, broadly-conceived characters, and larger-than-life action sequences - with the inclusion of such elements initially compensating for the almost oppressively thin storyline. It's just as clear that Van Damme's winning work plays a significant role in Street Fighter's mild success, as some of the movie's most entertaining interludes come courtesy of the actor's gloriously charismatic turn as Colonel Guile (ie the rousing speech he delivers to his troops remains an obvious highlight). Van Damme is so good, in fact, that the film demonstrably suffers when his character is off-screen, yet this proves to be a minor issue compared to the increasingly mindless bent of de Souza's screenplay - with the relentlessly action-packed nature of the movie's final half-hour effectively transforming the whole thing into a seriously headache-inducing experience. The end result is a hopelessly uneven piece of work that's far from the all-out disaster one might've anticipated, admittedly, although it ultimately seems clear that teenaged boys remain the only demographic likely to wholeheartedly embrace the proceedings.