The Most Mismatched Fistfights in Movie History: Jean-Claude Van Damme v. Raul Julia

[This post begins a five-part weekly series by Matthew Belinkie. Come back every Friday for a new installment. —Ed.]

Street Fighter

The Movie: Street Fighter

Why It Strains Credulity:

Van Damme was 34, and a former kickboxing champion. Julia was 54, and visibly gaunt from terminal stomach cancer.

The Fight:

Van Damme’s character, Guile (who sports an American flag tattoo on his bicep despite the thick Belgian accent), is leading an attack on the stronghold of Julia’s M. Bison. He has Bison surrounded by guys with machine guns, but orders them away so he and Julia can fight to the death in private.

Van Damme pretty much dominates the early going. At one point, he pounds Julia’s head into a giant bell. (I believe the stronghold is located in some sort of temple or monastery.) Van Damme nails Julia twice with Guile’s special move, the somersault kick. Finally, Julia falls onto a control panel, which electrocutes him.

(NOTE: I was listening to commentary by writer/director Steven de Souza during the fight. At this point, he smirks: “You’re supposed to say, ‘Gee, my laserdisc has seven more chapters on it. How can he be dead already?’”)

But of course, Bison’s not dead. While Van Damme is on the phone with his second-in-command, Cammy (who, incidentally, is played by Kylie Minogue), Julia’s special dictator outfit automatically administers CPR and revives him. I assume in 20 years, all shirts will have this capability. Julia not only gets back up, he reveals he has the power to:

A) Shoot lightning bolts.

B) Fly.

While I see the utility of the lightning bolts, I’m not convinced that flying would really help in hand-to-hand combat. His strategy pretty much depends on Van Damme standing rooted to one spot in slack-jawed amazement, while Julia glides at him from across the room. Luckily for him, this is what happens for about five minutes.

Finally, it occurs to Van Damme to try kicking him. Julia flies backwards, out of control, right into a wall of video screens, which explode for no reason.

But Maybe We Can Buy It Because:

  1. Earlier, Julia amused himself by fighting captured marines and effortlessly snapping their necks. So at least they’ve established that within the world of the movie, Raul Julia is a martial artist par excellence. Far-fetched, but keep in mind that the movie includes an invisible boat.
  2. His above-mentioned ability to fly certainly gives Julia a psychological advantage. As he puts it: “Something wrong, Colonel? You come here prepared to fight a madman, and instead you found a god?”
  3. Speaking of Julia’s dialogue, his fantastically over-the-top performance not only makes Street Fighter watchable, it nearly makes it worth watching. On that basis alone, you almost can’t believe he’ll lose this fight. My favorite Bison moment:

Bison: Ah! Doctor Dhalsim! How is your research today?

Dr. Dhalsim: The same. Warped. Corrupted. My science twisted to serve perversion instead of peace.

Bison: Tell you what. After I’ve crushed my enemies, we’ll see about getting you published. That should cheer you up, hmm?

Fun Trivia:

Julia, ever the method actor, died just as production wrapped. The film is dedicated to his memory, which is a lot like the McDonalds you had a heart attack at naming a burger after you.

5 Comments on “The Most Mismatched Fistfights in Movie History: Jean-Claude Van Damme v. Raul Julia”

  1. Carlos #

    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 wannabe is gonna feel it!

  2. Matthew Belinkie #

    So, who wants to go home… and WHO WANTS TO GO WITH ME?!

  3. Adrian #

    Acest film este un film foarte reusit Actoul”Jean-Claude Van Damme”si-a jucat rolurile foarte bine si il admir cu multa sinceritate pe Actorul”Jean-Claude Van Damme” de mic copil si-a inceput cariera cum a stiut el mai bine si in filmul cu “Bloodsport” o jucat foarte bine si mias dori sa ajung si eu ca el dar mai am mult de muncit Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiii Jean-Claude Van Damme