“Street Fighter” signals its goofily satiric intentions with a “Robocop”-inspired — or is that “Citizen Kane?” — news broadcast that cheekily elucidates M. Bison’s authoritarian rule of the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Shadaloo. Guile leads the also-fictional Allied Nations’ campaign against Bison’s illegitimate power grab, and is so committed to his righteous cause that he commandeers a cable news camera to engage in a technically improbable back-and-forth with the despot.
This is the moment when you must make a decision: this is either off-puttingly unrealistic or awesomely stupid.
Sitting in a Toledo, Ohio theater on opening night, I cheerfully bought all the way in. The flippant demeanor of de Souza’s most memorable protagonists — Reggie Hammond, John Matrix, and John McClane — was now governing an entire production. He was paying proper respect to his assignment, which was to wink at his audience: this is a movie based on a video game, and he was not going to imbue a single second of this movie with dramatic gravitas. And he was going to use one of the greatest actors on the planet to bold-underline the sheer ludicrousness of this endeavor.
De Souza reportedly made “Street Fighter” under a mess of pressure, and with a $35 million budget that was siphoned off by Van Damme’s $8 million salary. This explains the film’s curiously small scale, but excess production value would’ve diminished its chintzy charm.