There are so many ways to look at Arena of the Street Fighter, East German stuntman Mike Möller’s martial arts flick. Though, come to think of it, I could probably stop with “East German stuntman Mike Möller’s martial arts flick.”
But what fun would that be?
This movie reminds me of a lot of things. “Enter the Dragon”. My days at the dojo. Ed Wood.
Had you, in my youth, handed me a camera and said “Make a movie,” this is probably the movie I would’ve made. Except for the camerawork, which is highly professional, this looks like Möller’s got his training partners together to do Karate demo.
The movie’s in English, we’re pretty sure, though they may have shot it in both German and English. At first I thought the audio was “location sound” (versus the more typical-of-today overdubbing everything) because it sounded like everyone was in a cave, but at one point (a fight in an empty pool) they cranked the reverb up so high, it was clear to me someone just thought it was cool to have everything echo a lot. (And if a little is good, a whole lot must be awesome.)
It made it hard to understand. The thick German accents also made it hard to understand. That unique patois that I dubbed “Germanglish” (when I was writing for the German “Toolbox” magazine back in the ‘90s) makes it even harder to parse even when you can make out the words. Then there’s the fact that Germans all kinda look alike to make things hard to track.
Fortunately, there is nothing here that needs comprehension. This movie is straight outta the ’80s. (Even the music sounds like someone dusted off their old DX7s.)
The plot, insofar as I could discern it is this: The city (time and location uncertain) run by an evil gang, that does, you know, whatever it wants, including putting on fights to determine who the best fighter is. The good dojo just wants to, like, train and stuff, and gives the bad guys a wide berth until one day, the bad guys kill one of their members.
I wasn’t sure who was killed. By a head count, I didn’t notice any fewer people on screen. (The movie recycles a lot of its actors for the action scenes, and at least one actress who is doubtless of very fun, very game stuntwoman.) I thought initially it was the dojo’s master, but that seems to be Möller.
So, somebody got killed, and it was someone they cared about. Not enough to have a funeral or change in any appreciable way, but still. The “kid” (I think he was supposed to be young) decides to enter the arena of the street fighter to exact his revenge (though I’m unclear on how that would’ve helped) but loses and—well, you’d sort of expect him to die at this point, right?
He doesn’t though. He’s just kinda embarrassed and down about it, even though everyone seems reasonably nice at the arena, vis a vis him losing.
Eventually, though, Möller has to get involved, on or about the 3rd (of four or five!) times that the bad guys walk into their dojo and rough them up. This follows the ’80s tradition of being able to discern the good guys in a martial arts by the fact that they’re the least competent at actual martial arts (cf. Macchio, Ralph).
If you can’t fight guys, at least put a lock on the front door.
So, yeah, Möller gets involved and fights a bunch of guys in…well, it’s not an arena so much as a room. Nobody watches. There seems to be no reward or significance, although thanks to some spiffy exposition, we learn that the bad guys’ gang is in charge of the city because they win the championship.
This is due to the evil Skyline corporation (no, seriously) that uses the gang for its nefarious ends and…I dunno, may replace them with Nice Guy Dojo if they lose the match? Because martial arts street gangs are the best way to do that sort of thing, I guess.
Anyway, the whole tale is told in flashback with Möller in jail—this confused the hell out of me for the first third of the movie—by a guy with a very low-brow Scottish(?) accent who, from what I could gather, runs the evil Skyline corporation.
Also, there’s some parkour.
Actually, if one of you guys could see this and explain it to me, I’d be grateful.
Best East German martial arts movie I’ve seen this year. The Boy loved it, of course.