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Film review: Street Fighter

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"Street Fighter," based on the popular video game "Street Fighter II," boasts an orange-haired, short-cropped Jean-Claude Van Damme (with an American flag tattooed on his right arm) as the hero, Col. Guile, and features Raul Julia in his final film role as psychotic warlord Gen. Bison.

Julia passed away earlier this year and may have been ill when he shot this picture. But he seems to be having a good time, with bold line readings and a campy sense of fun, making his villain the film's most enjoyable aspect.

And there's not much to enjoy about the rest of "Street Fighter," which offers an uneasy mix of off-the-wall farce and violent mayhem in its first half and then gives way to heavy-handed gunplay and a ridiculously high body count during its second half. (With inspiration from a myriad of other films, from "Escape From New York" to "A Nightmare on Elm Street.")

Col. Guile leads a specially trained troop of soldiers charged with keeping world peace, but he has a personal vendetta against Gen. Bison. And he's not the only one - a television cable network reporter (Ming-Na Wen, of "The Joy Luck Club") also wants revenge.

Meanwhile, Bison is holding hostages for a $20 billion ransom and also has imprisoned an old friend of Guile's, whom he has turned over to a scientist for some kind of green-faced "Incredible Hulk" experiment. (This is the second steroid-enhanced human who becomes a monster in a video-game movie - it was also a subplot in "Double Dragon" earlier this year.)

And there are plenty of other characters in tow, including Wes Studi ("Geronimo," "Last of the Mohicans"), as an eye-patched gun-runner.

But plot is secondary to action, and this film begins noisily and fast-paced, and the loud and often frenzied violence never seems to let up. (Never mind that most of it is unimaginative gunplay.)

As for Van Damme . . . well, he still can't act, but he does have a sense of humor about himself. Too bad he doesn't have better writers.

"Street Fighter" is rated PG-13 and is aimed at preteen video game players, and is loaded with mayhem. There is also some profanity and vulgarity.