Street Fighter: Extreme Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (8th August 2009).
The Film

1993’s “Super Mario Brothers” was a watershed film for video gamers the world over because it represented a transition from television screen to silver screen for many of their favorite characters. It opened the proverbial flood gates for the potential to tap an unlimited number of already-popular titles to generate major revenue for Hollywood studios. And then it tanked, both commercially and critically. Filmmakers should have taken note at that time because since then no video game adaptation, save for (possibly) the “Tomb Raider” films (2001 & 2003), has met with any reasonable level of commercial or critical success. “Street Fighter” (1994) is another film that is often mentioned in the same breath as “Super Mario Brothers” for being known as a cinematic turkey… and rightfully so. There is little semblance of any type of plot, instead the film exists solely to pair up fan favorite characters in an effort to have them square off in their trademark outfits. The results are far less satisfying that actually playing the game yourself.

The film essentially begins in medias res as General M. Bison (Raul Julia, in his final theatrical role) demands $20 billion from the Allied Nations or else he will execute dozens of hostages he has trapped in his Bond villain-esque compound. The A.N., led by Colonel Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme), initiates a tactical strike against Bison’s compound. Lots of people fight, lots of people die… in the end only the true loser is the viewer.

In all honesty, there is nothing even remotely engaging about this film. It exists simply to have popular characters from the “Street Fighter” video game series fight each other. The end. We are introduced to so many familiar faces from the series that it feels like more time is spent meeting them than anything else. And once we do meet them you can almost hear the collective hush of fanboys as they impatiently wait for them to pair up and fight. So, wasting little time on things like character exposition or dialogue that doesn’t make viewers cringe, the film injects itself with a shot of adrenaline and blasts off full-force with as much action as its budget will allow it to muster. But, as we all know, 100 minutes of action hardly makes a film good. In fact, sometimes it makes it nigh unwatchable.

Though the star of the film is ostensibly Jean-Claude Van Damme, we really can’t place the onus of failure on him, nor can we place it on any other cast member. This is a large ensemble film, with actors packed in here like sardines in a tin can. When it’s painfully obvious to anyone with a brain that your film’s writers were told “get Character A and Character B together, somehow, in order for them to fight”, well… you’re going to have problems. Each and every scene is just a hastily-written set up for the impending battle. If you’re a 12 year old male with the attention span of a toddler, then this may be for you.

Let’s take a quick look at who’s playing for the good guys, shall we? Van Damme stars as Guile, our hero. We know this because everyone in the world seems to look up to him. I’ve already spoken at length about his limited range as an actor, so he thankfully spends most of the running time here posing his well-toned physique and doing karate kicks. Moving on… The rest of the cast is full of the expected roster of game characters. Ming-Na Wen stars as Chun-Li, here a reporter who also doubles as an ass-kicking Geisha girl. E. Honda (Peter "Navy" Tuiasosopo), now a Samoan instead of Japanese, is part of her crew along with Balrog (Grand L. Bush), the boxer-turned-cameraman. Pop superstar Kylie Minogue gets some legwork in as Lt. Cammy. The team of Ken (Damian Chapa) and Ryu (Byron Mann) show up as double agents on Bison’s trail. Even Dhalsim (Roshan Seth) shows up, minus his awesome stretchy arms, as the doctor in charge of helping Bison to create Blanka, the homonculized he-beast, from a captured soldier, Carlos (Robert Mammone).

As for the villains, the team is led up by the late, great Raul Julia as Gen. M. Bison. Though it’s sad to see such a revered, talented actor end his storied career on such a sour note, Julia is the consummate professional, as always, so he plays the role of Bison with the same passion and conviction he would with any other character. Indeed, his performance is one of the film’s few highlights as he is often so over-the-top and ridiculous at every turn that it’s a joy seeing him chew up the scenery. Sagat (Wes Studi) and Vega (Jay Tavare) play gun-running partners in league with Bison. Former Leatherface actor Andrew Bryniarski appears as the Russian, Zangief. He’s around more for comedic relief than anything and his performance was quite amusing, I must admit. Aside from these leading baddies, the rest of the villainous cast is comprised of Bison’s soldiers, who look like they were rejected from the set of “Spaceballs” (1987) with their oversized helmets and humorous appearance.

As I said, everything here is just one big set up to get our characters fighting each other. Every fight is handled like a video game, complete with the actors actually performing some of their famous 16-bit counterparts’ signature moves. What I found most amusing was how they got all of them into their signature outfits as well. Balrog is literally wearing boxing shorts and gloves during the film’s climax. Where the hell he got them, I’ll never know. And I’m willing to bet the filmmakers are hoping no one would even bother to question it all.

I think the worst subplot of the entire film is easily that of Carlos “Charlie” Blanka, Guile’s friend and Bison’s newly-acquired hostage soldier. Bison has his scientist, Dhalsim, use a half-assed Ludovico Technique (from 1971’s “A Clockwork Orange”) along with some large I.V. drips clearly marked as “DNA Mutagens” to transform him into the hulking hunchback everyone loved from the games. The only problem is that, despite spending nearly the entire duration of the film building up Blanka’s appearance, de Souza gives him the momentum of a muffled fart to tear through the remainder of the picture. He appears, Guile reminds him that “he’s his friend” and then Blanka is tossed aside. To add insult to injury, he also looks more like an inbred cousin to Sloth from “The Goonies” (1985) rather than a menacing Brazilian beast.

Director Steven E. de Souza is primarily a writer, having written some classic action films of the 1980’s including: “Die Hard” (1988), "The Running Man" (1987), "Commando" (1985) and more. Directing is obviously not his forte, however, a fact made even more apparent when his IMDB resume boasts a paltry 6 directing entries, only one of which, “Street Fighter”, was a theatrical feature-length film. His next entry is dated 2000, so this film probably gave him pause when future offers, if any, came his way. The direction has all the finesse of a video game, meaning shots are clumsily framed to look like an arcade game half the time. I’d try placing some of the blame on the writers but, of course, de Souza was the writer, too. At least here’s one guy who did take the public’s advice, by way of poor word-of-mouth, and stuck to his day job.

Video

I must admit that I didn’t expect to be this pleased with the film’s 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps VC-1 encoded transfer. Colors look lush, vibrant and incredibly sharp. The image has some great “pop” to it, with many scenes looking as though they are coming to you from outside the window. Skin tones appear very natural for all of the various ethnic characters with fantastic reproduction. Black levels are strong, though so much of the film takes place during the day that there is little opportunity for them to be tested. I did note some scenes were overly grainy, but they are hardly a distraction. It’s a fact that Blu-ray transfers are a total crapshoot. Some of the best films can receive a mediocre transfer while films such as “Street Fighter” are given a rather stunning image. This is no doubt a major improvement over the previous DVD edition. Hey, if the film isn’t a winner at least the video can be, right?

Audio

Equally as impressive is the film’s English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, which is given quite the workout. The film is jam-packed with machine gun fire and explosions, so expect this one to keep your neighbors up. Dialogue is loud and easy to hear, with no hisses, pops or distortion. The final battle culminates in a massive explosion that shook the foundations of my house. The sound design isn’t quite as dynamic as many newer films, but for a picture from 1994 this is a very great track. There are also French and Spanish DTS 5.1 surround sound tracks available. Subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish and French.

Extras

“Street Fighter” hits Blu-ray in an “Extreme Edition” packed with lots of bonus features and a number of hi-def exclusives. Included are an audio commentary, making-of featurette, video game trailers, deleted scenes, storyboards, outtakes, photo galleries and more.

The audio commentary with director Steven E. de Souza is surprisingly decent although I’m sure many of you will be hesitant to watch the film again. He talks about how they wanted to approach each of the film’s many characters, trying to maintain as much of their integrity as possible… that sort of thing. He also drops some interesting nuggets, such as how they created over 30 hours of original programming for M. Bison’s propaganda network despite the fact that the film itself is only slightly more than 90 minutes. All in all he seems genuinely pleased with the film he made. Good for him!

“The Making of Street Fighter” is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes and 58 seconds. Basically, this is your typical behind-the-scenes look at the film. It’s just a glorified electronic press kit with a story overview and some cast & crew interviews.

There is a reel of outtakes which runs for 3 minutes and 8 seconds, which includes the usual stuff.

Two deleted scenes are included for:

- Deleted scene #1 runs for 58 seconds, Chun-Li does some undercover work outside of the A.N. with her crew.
- Deleted scene #2 runs for 1 minute and 12 seconds, Chun-Li has a fight with Lt. Cammy backstage at the circus.

Two storyboard sequences are available for the following:

- “Boardroom” contains 16 images.
- “Prison Break” contains 22 images.

Two video games sequences featuring a fight between Guile and M. Bison are available for the following:

- “Super Street Fighter II” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Street Fighter: The Movie Game” runs for 48 seconds.

“Cyberwalk” is an oddly-named feature which contains the following:

- “Recruiting Center” runs for 17 seconds, featuring propaganda posters and ephemera used in the film for M. Bison’s regime.
- “Crisis in Shadaloo” runs for 3 minutes and 46 seconds, featuring Chun-Li’s broadcast on the escalating situation in the fictitious nation.

An “Archives” gallery contains the following:

- "Publicity stills" contains 65 images.
- “Arcade Movie Game" trailer runs for 52 seconds.
- “Concept Drawings by Nikita Knatz” contains 32 images.
- “On the Street Fighter Set” contains 40 images.
- “Ad Campaigns” contains 28 images.
- “Trading Cards” contains 16 images.
- “Toys and Tie-Ins” contains 8 images.

Bonus trailers for:

- “Street Fighter IV Video Game" trailer runs for 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
- “Street Fighter IV Video Game" teaser trailer runs for 38 seconds.
- “Street Fighter IV Anime" trailer runs for 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

There is also some BD-Live content available for profile 2.0 players, though at present all it features is the ability to access the "My Scenes" feature where users can compile a list of their favorite scenes from Universal Blu-rays.

Overall

The Film: D+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B-

 


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