Street Fighter [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (23rd February 2021).
The Film

"Street Fighter" (1994)

In the southeast Asian country of Shadaloo, a group of Allied Nations relief workers have been kidnapped and held for ransom by the evil General M. Bison (played by Raul Julia), demanding $20 billion for their release. But he has no plans to do so, as his goal is to use an army of genetically modified super soldiers at his command to bring the world under his rule. Captain Guile (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) leads the military operation of the Allied Nations, and has a personal vendetta against Bison as his best friend Charlie is one of the men captured. In addition, the journalist Chun Li (played by Ming-Na Wen) is appearing to be covering the happenings, but is secretly on a mission to take down Bison herself, as he was responsible for the death of her father. Meanwhile, con artists Ryu (played by Byron Mann) and Ken (played by Damian Chapa) try to swindle arms to Shadaloo mob boss Sagat (played by Wes Studi), but get caught up in the local civil conflict.

When the video game "Street Fighter II" hit the arcades in early 1991, it was a phenomenon that swept the entire world by storm. The concept of a 1 on 1 fighting game existed before in terms of games like "Pit Fighter", "Urban Champion", "Karate Champ", and others, including the original 1987 "Street Fighter", but Capcom went the extra mile with the sequel game, with large colorful character designs, varied fighting styles for each, an excellent soundtrack, beautiful stage designs, and controls and animation that were much more fluid than anything seen previously. From kids to adults, the game was one that everyone wanted to play as well as watch others play. Especially the seasoned players that could use the characters well with combos and special moves. After its success, other game companies would flood the market with excellent games such as "Fatal Fury", "Art of Fighting", "Mortal Kombat", "Killer Instinct", "Guilty Gear" and so forth, but Capcom would continue to entice players with continuous upgrades to the game almost yearly, with "Street Fighter II' Champion Edition", "Street Fighter II Turbo", "Super Street Fighter II", etc. with new characters and upgraded moves, and some other changes like speed and colors. Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza received an offer to work on a screenplay for an adaptation of the game. As he was familiar with the game itself and also had a hand at producing the video game Cadillacs and Dinosaurs" and the subsequent animated TV series, Capcom saw him as a formidable choice as a write. In addition, de Souza was quite well known for his screenplays for action films with "48 Hours", "Running Man", and "Die Hard" among others. The only condition was that he only had one day to write a spec script and present it Capcom executives at the initial meeting.

For the initial script, de Souza looked at having only a few main characters out of the game's lineup be the central focus but Capcom was insistent that he put all the characters in roles. Not just the main eight, not only the four boss characters, but also the newly introduced characters from the "Super" installment, which had the roster count at sixteen. This meant having to push more characters and subplots into the story, and having to rewrite the character backstories already included in the game to fit the film adaptation. Blanka was no longer a mutated survivor of a plane crash with electric power. E. Honda was no longer Japanese. Balrog became a camera operator. Ryu and Ken became con men. Dhalsim became a scientist. Dee Jay went from dancer to an IT specialist. The film version basically took the main idea of Bison wanting to rule the world, and taking the rest of the characters with a lot of liberties to be said. For fans especially kids in this era, this seemed like a bastardization of the source material. Each character had his or her lore and appeal. But granted, if one tried to adapt the "Street Fighter II" game's story directly, there would be a lot of difficult things to explain. Why were these fighters traveling all around the world to have a 1 on 1 street fight with some random fighter? How was this organized in a time before the Internet existed? If many of them had the same goal of defeating M. Bison, why were they fighting each other instead of teaming up with each other? And most of all, why were people just standing around and watching, instead of calling the police when these hard hitting fights started? Obviously in terms of "cinema", it wouldn't work directly and therefore had to have some changes made. But the choices made for "Street Fighter" the movie? Questionable.

One reason that the "Avengers" film from 2012 did so well was that the crowded ensemble piece was preceded by a series of individual movies that established the characters before coming together. "Street Fighter" instead tries to cram a large amount of characters into a 100 minute film, and thereby failing to establish the motivations of many of the characters and not giving enough screentime to some of the main ones. In essence, the original "Street Fighter II" game had eight playable characters, though Ryu and Ken were considered the "main" characters as they were the only playable carryovers from the first game. Rather than focusing on them, the film decides to go all American and have Guile as the lead. Capcom wanted a big action star to play the role, but didn't have the budget for stars the likes of Stallone or Schwarzenegger. One of the first choices was Stephen Lang who was in a supporting role in "Tombstone" the previous year. Capcom wanted Jean-Claude Van Damme as his action films were very popular in Japan. The American producers questioned that his accent might get in the way of playing an American soldier, the Japanese producers questioned "What accent?", as they were unaware that he had a Belgian accent. Raul Julia was a respected actor for quite some time on television and film, but with the success of the two "Addams Family" movies from 1991 and 1993, he found a new generation of fans with the youth. In addition, his children were quite young as well, and being able to play in a movie adapted from one of their favorite games seemed like the perfect opportunity. But with the casting of these two actors, much of the $35 million budget was spent, with Van Damme receiving $8 million for his role. They still had to cast the rest of the fighters, design sets, shoot on location, and much more. This meant that big names could not be used to fill in the cast. Kylie Minogue was very popular as a singer at the time in her native Australia as well as in Europe but not on American radars since her more recent albums were not released there and she had not acted in a film since the panned "The Delinquents" from 1989, which never had an American release. With partial shooting being done in Australia, it was forced by the production staff to have an Australian actor in the production, and she was cast as the English officer Cammy, one of the new characters in the game that would work alongside Guile. Capcom hired Japanese stunt performer Kenya Sawada in an exclusive contract with the company, and it was their intention to have him play Ryu in the film. Unfortunately his English was so poor that de Souza and the American producers couldn't have him play a role with Ryu's many dialogue sequences, and instead the role would be given to Byron Mann. As Capcom wanted a Japanese actor in the film for the Japanese market appeal, there was no other main role for Sawada to be fit in. To appease Capcom, an entirely new role of "Captain Sawada" was written who would appear at times to help Guile's team in a few scenes, with very little dialogue. For Ryu, Byron Mann asked Japanese acquaintances of the correct pronunciation of the character name, which sounds like "Ree-You" said very quickly. During rehearsals, Chapa as Ken pronounced the name as "Rye-You", which Mann corrected. It was there that the director decided that the Ryu's name should be pronounced "Rye-You", causing a generation of non-Japanese gamers to incorrectly pronounce his name for years.

Martial arts superstar Benny "The Jet" Urquidez who showed his fight choreography skills on film in "Wheels on Meals" and "Dragons Forever" opposite Jackie Chan was the fight trainer for the actors, and stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni was hired to choreograph the fight sequences. Although there should have been adequate time to train everyone, the major problem was that in the game, each character had their own style of fighting, but there was no time to physically train more than a dozen actors to fight in a dozen different forms. This led to fight choreography being quickly rehearsed sometimes right before the scenes were to be shot, and therefore being fairly bland in terms of originality and speed for many of the one on one scenes. In addition, most of the actors were not trained fighters like Van Damme was, but were actors playing fighters. This was at a time that Hong Kong martial arts films prided themselves on speed and spectacle with practical effects and dangerous looking choreography. "Street Fighter" on the other hand felt like baby steps. As it was a "Street Fighter" movie, one would expect to see a lot of one on one fighting. Instead, a lot of gunplay and explosions filled the screen like a war film, and didn't seem to fit the tone of the game, which had no gunplay at all.

Problems were not only with the untrained actors but also with the "trained" actors. Van Damme was very demanding on the set and apparently was high on cocaine for most of the shoot, as he said possibly with some exaggeration that he had a "$10,000 a day" habit. He would refuse to go on set until he felt he was ready, and would not be as cooperative as one would expect. Julia was undergoing cancer treatments, and between the time he was cast and fit for costumes and the time he arrived on set, he lost a significant amount of weight and therefore a good amount of physical energy. His physical weakness also caused the production to be shifted around. Due to delays with the two main leads, shooting kept getting delayed, leading to sequences having to be entirely cut, including a scene explaining that Guile was from Louisiana, so he has a Cajun tone (which doesn't sound like Belgian but...), and a sequence of Bison capturing everyone after the truck explosion. Without it, the film suddenly jumps to everyone being rounded up in the same room with no setup. The location used in Thailand for much of the filming also had issues, with electricity not being adequate at times, the hangar used as the soundstage having sound and lighting issues due to the metallic roof causing heavy sound whenever it rained and holes in the wall causing light to beam in when it was supposed to be dark. Due to these problems, there was a lot that had to be reshot in Australia weeks later on a second stage. There was no way to push the release date back, as Capcom had the Christmas 1994 release date set and contracts for tie-ins and merchandising ready to go. The summer of 1994 was an extremely busy period for the "Street Fighter" cast and crew.

Not all was a disaster on set with the "Street Fighter" movie. Julia and Minogue were excellent to work with and were extremely gracious to the cast and crew. The characters of Dee Jay (played by Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) and Zangief (played by Andrew Bryniarski) were the intentional comic reliefs of the film, with Núñez giving some of the best looks against some of the most absurd sequences and Zangief having two of the best one liners in the film with "Quick, change the channel!" and "You got paid?" Raul Julia, even with his medical issues was able to give one of the most intense performances of his career, with his powerful monologues, menacing looks, and a charm that only the best movie villains could have done. While many of the other performers may have been slightly campy in their portrayals, Julia's performance as Bison is like a Shakespearean tragedy, of a misunderstood man that ended up on the wrong side of history but in his mind is the right one. Sadly Julia passed away two months before the film was released theatrically, but it was unanimous in reaction that his performance far outclassed anything else the film had to offer. Somehow the film with its crammed plots and frequent plot holes was pieced together to as coherent as it could have been with what was shot and reshot, but overall the film was a mess. Was Guile's fake death that easy to cover up? Was there a reason he was just silently lying in the cold morgue for such a long time? Why didn't Bison experiment with the mutation serum on just one subject? Why did Dhalsim suddenly go bald? There are so many to list. It didn't feel like the "Street Fighter II" game come to life, but was one that took too many liberties to be called the same name. Ryu and Ken don't shoot Hadokens, Guile doesn't strike a Sonic Boom, and many other trademark moves of the characters have not been put on screen. Even the iconic music cues from the game have not been carried over, instead relying on a newly composed orchestral score by Graeme Revell which happens to be quite good but not as memorable. In addition, many hip hop artists contributed to the score, including very prominent artists like Ice Cube, Nas, The Pharcyde, and LL Cool J, though their tracks were buried within the movie rather than being on the forefront of the sound design. To provide appeal to the Japanese market, pop duo Chage and Aska provided the end credits theme song, marking their international debut with an English language song. "Something There" was a hit in their native Japan, ranking 2nd in the Oricon charts and selling 569,000 copies, and their 17th album "Code Name.1 Brother Sun" selling 750,000 copies. On an international scale, the single failed to chart.

Universal Pictures handled the distribution of the film in the United States while Columbia Tristar distributed the film in most international markets. Universal released the film on December 23rd, 1994 theatrically, while it rolled out in other markets through the first half of 1995. Like the "Super Mario Bros." movie from a year before, the critics panned the film outright with the crammed amount of characters, the inconsistent and sometimes confusing plot, though all were favorable to Julia's performance as Bison. And also like Mario, gamers were not particularly happy with all the changes made from the source material. For Van Damme fans, this marked his first film not be rated R, and without the hard violence the toned down action disappointed the fanbase. It was not a success in America, grossing a mere $33 million against a $35 million budget. Thankfully for Capcom, the film did much better abroad, where it earned an additional $66 million for a total of $99 million. While it wasn't a runaway hit, it was still considered a financial success. In the months following the theatrical release, the "Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game" was released in arcades and for home consoles using the motion captured actors like the "Mortal Kombat" series, which also had a film adaptation with "Mortal Kombat" released in 1995 that also had some criticism attached to it. This was a time that video game adaptations were at its infancy, and all of them fared poorly with critics and gamers alike.

While the film had many hints of a sequel to be coming, especially in the post credits scene added to the home video and international versions, Capcom did not make a live action follow-up directly. Instead the American produced "Street Fighter: The Animated Series" was a spiritual successor, by including elements from the film's narrative while also trying to make the story closer to that of the game it was originally based on. Capcom returned to the game to film adaptation in 2002 with the live action "Resident Evil", which would become a major series on its own through multiple games and a parallel film series that differed in characters and narrative but shared the same traits. These films, as flawed as they were, succeeded as both the games and the films were looked at in a more cinematic approach from the start rather than trying to adapt something that didn't seem to fit the artform. It took some time for Capcom to revisit the Street Fighter franchise with a live action film, and 2009's "The Legend of Chun Li" was looked as a reboot of the series by focusing on individual characters rather than cramming all into one story. Unfortunately the reception was even worse that of the 1994 film, with a gross of only $12 million worldwide against a $18 million budget, which halted the series from continuing any further. While it seemed any live action adaptation of "Street Fighter" by Capcom was impossible to get right, it was up to the fans to right those wrongs. The independently produced mini series "Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist" focused on Ryu and Ken's early years in training, and was highly praised for its performances, the detailed backstories, and even having a bilingual cast speaking English and Japanese in appropriate scenes (though yet again Ryu would be played by a non-Japanese actor).

25 years since the release of the "Street Fighter" movie, the abysmal reviews did not bury the movie at all, as it became a mainstay in rental stores and cable TV to reach further audiences. The campy nature of the film, the absurd plot, and the towering presence of Julia's last performance were all elements that made it a cult hit for video audiences, and continued to be a popular seller in the home video market. Universal released a special edition Laserdisc in 1995 with a great deal of extras including a director's commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, and production galleries. DVDs and Blu-rays from Universal and Sony would follow over the years, and in 2020, 88 Films in the UK released their exclusive limited edition Blu-ray with many new and vintage extras, reviewed here.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray

Video

88 Films presents the film in the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film starts with the Columbia Tristar logo though it awkwardly has the 90s Universal Pictures music underneath it. It then crossfades to the Earth with the "Street Fighter" logo, as it was on international versions of the film. This HD master from Sony Pictures looks to be identical to the ones used for the previously available Blu-rays from Sony International, and that is not at all a bad thing. The US Blu-ray from Universal was criticized for the washed out colors, artifacts and digital noise, but transfer from Sony greatly improved on it with a sharper image, bolder colors, and much better detail. The blues of the AN soldiers' uniforms, the golds in Sagat's place, the reds of Bison's uniform and Chun Li's dress look quite good here. There are little to no instances of dust or speckles, no issues of shimmering or major flaws with the image to be found. Overall, fans should be very pleased with how it looks.

The film's runtime is 101:28, being the home video release which includes an additional scene in the post credits, which was not part of the original American theatrical release.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The 5.1 track is presented lossless. Being an action film filled with guns, explosions, punches and other sound effects, the speakers do get quite a workout with the sound design. In addition, the orchestral score by Graeme Revell sweeps in frequently and sounds excellent as well. Dialogue is almost entirely center based, with some of the surrounding channels used for echoes within Bison's lair. Dialogue, music, and effects are well balanced throughout the mix.

There are optional English subtitles for the Japanese portions and English HoH for the full dialogue in a white font. The English for Japanese portions appear in only about two lines during the whole film and are on by default with the first subtitle track. The HoH subtitles caption the entire film including the Japanese portions (though not the Esperanto). They are clear and easy to read without any errors to speak of.

Extras

Audio commentary with director Steven E. de Souza
In this audio commentary recorded for the 1995 Laserdisc, the director reflects on the film, recounting the rushed and troubled production with a lot of informative detail. Talked about are Capcom's demands to the script to include as many characters as possible, some of his decisions to change the characters and plots from the original game, shooting in Thailand and Australia, his own biography of getting into the film business, the test audience screenings, the release, and much more. In addition he talks about the actors doing motion capture for the "Street Fighter: The Movie" games for the arcade and home console markets (which looked similar but were actually different games), though in the commentary he refers to it as "Street Fighter III", which was the in progress title for the games. Eventually the games were released without a number, and the actual "Street Fighter III" game with a completely new art style would be released in 1997.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Audio commentary with Audi Sorlie and John Linneman of Digital Foundry (2020)
Sorlie and Linneman discuss facts about the film, such as how some of the actors had no fighting experience, the awkward casting of Sawada, biographies of the actors, some of the inconsistencies and plot holes, as well as personal recollections seeing the film for the first time. The two do have positive comments to say as they both admit it is one of their favorite games to film adaptations.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Operation Shadaloo: Making Street Fighter" 2020 interview with director Steven E. de Souza (16:41)
In this audio interview, de Souza reflects on the film more than 25 years later, about the rushed writing process, memories of Van Damme, Julia, Minogue, and other cast members, Capcom's demands and decisions that clashed, the unusable footage shot in Thailand, the troubles encountered with the ending raid sequence, the reception and more. On screen are clips of the film and some behind the scenes footage.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"I Will Crush You: Ken vs Chapa" 2020 interview with actor Damian Chapa (10:21)
Interestingly Chapa first discusses how he didn't want to do the part as he wanted to be in works that were more prestigious, but took the part knowing Julia was part of the cast. He talks about his characterization of Ken, the fight sequences, memories of the cast and crew, and more. Most of this interview features clips from the film and behind the scenes footage, but on occasion we can see Chapa on screen in black and white through the remotely conducted interview.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1 in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Game Over: Scoring Street Fighter" 2020 interview with composer Graeme Revell (9:33)
In this audio interview, Revell looks back at the score of the film. Rather than base it on the existing game, it was decided to go full orchestral with new cues, and interestingly it was Revell who pushed to have a hip hop based soundtrack for the film. This also features clips of the film and behind the scenes footage with the audio interview.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Legacy of Street Fighter" 2020 interview with Audi Sorlie and John Linneman of Digital Foundry (16:25)
Sorlie and Linneman discuss the history of Capcom and "Street Fighter" and the lead up to the film, as well as the reception and the impact it had on Capcom as well as the games to film genre.
in 1080i 60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Remembering Ryu" 2020 interview with Byron Mann (35:11)
In this on camera interview, Mann discusses about his life changing decision from quitting working in a law firm to pursue acting, his experience in Hong Kong cinema in his earliest days, the production issues and the positive points of the "Street Fighter" film, and even admitting that he had never played the game before taking on the role. He also discusses how the "Ryu" name became mispronounced even though he knew the correct pronunciation himself, the audition process, the fight choreography and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Deleted Scenes (2:20)
A scene of Chun Li’s group gathering the explosives and a fight scene between Chun Li and Cammy are presented here. Both come from low quality video sources with film damage in the print.
in 1080i 60 (upscaled), in windowboxed 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

“The Making of Street Fighter” vintage featurette (5:57)
The original EPK featurette, with clips from the film with interviews with the cast and crew.
in 1080i 60 (upscaled, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (1:44)
The original theatrical trailer that packs in the names of the characters with quick montages of the action with the ever so 90s narration.
in 1080p (upscaled), in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

TV Spots (2:01)
A series of original US TV spots are presented.
in 1080p (upscaled), in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


88 Films has put in a great amount of new and vintage extras for this release, but not all the vintage extras have been carried over. The US Universal Blu-ray has a lot of the Laserdisc extras with storyboards, galleries for production design, conceptual artwork, toys and tie-in and more, plus an outtakes reel. The Sony International releases do not have all the extras from the US release.

Packaging

The disc is packaged in a keep case which inside includes a foldout poster and four art cards with production stills. There is also a slipcase with identical artwork, though on the slipcase is printed "Limited Edition xxxx of 3000".

Overall

"Street Fighter" is a film that frustrated me as a child as it differed so much from the game that I loved. Separating the film as an entity on its own many years later, it is still a bad film with its campy style, overcrowded cast, and plot holes everywhere, but somehow the charm of being a silly action film is entirely there. The 88 Films Blu-ray features a great transfer and a great selection of extras making this very recommended. As the release is a limited edition of only 3000 copies and most places looking to be sold out of it, the disc may be hard to come by these days.

The Film: C- Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: B-

 


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