In almost every episode of the How Did This Get Made podcast co-host June Diane Raphael asks an incredibly daffy question and her all time daffiest might have been in the Street Fighter episode. At one point she genuinely wanted to know: what is a street fighter? Her mystified co-hosts answered: it’s someone who fights… in a street. It’s a funny and weird moment, because she does kind of have a point – it’s not like professional street fights are a thing, so the film’s assumption that we just know what “street fighters” are is a bit presumptuous – but at the same time, it’s also a pretty self explanatory concept.
Raphael would be really confused if she watched Undefeatable, because there is a lot of street fighting in this movie. (Actually there’s way probably more here than in the actual Street Fighter movie, because I don't remember very much of Street Fighter actually taking place in the street.) Cynthia Rothrock stars as Kristi Jones, a young woman who raises money for her sister’s college tuition by fighting in back alley winner take all brawls. (They literally take place in alleyways, by the way. During broad daylight, too.) Meanwhile, a street fighter with the stage name of Stingray goes insane after his wife leaves him, and he starts kidnapping and killing any woman he sees who reminds him of his ex-wife. After Stingray murders Kristi’s sister, she vows to use her street fighting skills to track him down and get vengeance.
I don’t know if you can tell from that plot description, but there’s a lot about Undefeatable that’s kind of inexplicable. To start with: who wages illegal fights on the street in broad daylight? If Kristi is good enough to win in underground fights, why isn't she isn’t fighting in actual professional tournaments, which would have to be safer and more lucrative? Speaking of which, if there’s only six people watching these fights how is Kristi winning enough prize money to support both her and her sister and also pay for college? Has neither of the Jones sisters heard of student loans? Does the college think it’s weird that all of the bills are paid in cash money that is literally bloody?
If you think Kristi's life is a logistical nightmare, Stingray’s is even worse. His biggest problem is that he is unbelievably terrible at math. He only had one wife, so you’d have to think that after killing four or five brunettes in floral print dresses he would say “huh, I seem to have killed more people I had wives. Maybe I’m doing this wrong?” Does he secretly have Memento disease and he keeps forgetting that he’s murdered people who might have been his wife? If so, would getting tattoos that say “HEY STINGRAY, STOP KILLING WOMEN” help? If you ask a tattoo artist to give you a "STOP KILLING WOMEN" tattoo is he legally required to report you to the police or can he claim tattooist / patient confidentiality? I would think that since tattoo artists work with skin and doctors work with needles you could argue that a tattoo artist is a kind of dermatologist, right?
I would never argue that Undefeatable is great art, but it has a certain bonkers charm that worked for me. It exists in a world where 75% of the people on any given sidewalk are on that sidewalk to participate in a for-profit street fight, and the remaining 25% still know karate, they just don't need the money that bad. In some ways it reminded me of an old 8 bit side scrolling video game where the entire plot was: your character has to walk down the street fight every person he meets because they were all murderous maniacs. I suppose it's fitting that a movie about street fighters would remind me of a video game, but I can't quite put my finger on why...