For a fan of the video game Final Fight, the Taken films were a letdown. Sure, the plot shares enough surface similarities (criminal group kidnaps man’s daughter, man uses a particular set of skills to dispense of bad guys). But compared to the mountain of muscle and mustache that is Mike Haggar, star of 90s arcade beat-’em-up, Liam Neason’s trachea-chopping vengeance-seeker is nothing more than a rickety old Irishman.
Final Fight’s Mike Haggar was a dad amongst men (and pixels) who is finally getting his due as Capcom is set to release a new collection of their arcade hits. Back in the day, gamers could throw a poorly-animated rock and hit a young protagonist dressed in a black belt and karate gi (looking at you Double Dragon). But Haggar was different. First, he was a civil servant — a former pro wrestler who left the limelight to be mayor of Metro City. Second, he looked like Magnum P.I. on PEDs in an era when feathered hair was white sports coats were the rage. And last, he wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves (when he wasn’t topless) for his family.
The “plot” of Final Fight starts humming after Haggar’s daughter Jessica is kidnapped by an angry gang. What were they angry about? Not important. What is important is that he takes to the streets with a few compadres to issue out vigilante justice — the best kind of justice for action plots.
Looking back at Haggar, he wasn’t as flashy or fast as the other younger, more agile characters of Cody and Guy. And he lumbered with the gait of a linebacker with shot knees. But that didn’t matter. He took those bad dudes down with clotheslines, drop kicks, and pure old-man power that you can now relate to.
His signature move, the pile driver, was an ugly display of aggression — a relic of his wrestling days that turned any enemy into a crumpled mass that would quickly pulse and fade away. Hell, it’s even been shown to be effective against God’s perfect killing machine, the great white shark.
Save for the mass of angry muscle bursting from his arms, torso, and chest, Haggar’s dressed to spend a Sunday afternoon knocking back Busch Light and doing transmission work on an ancient Buick LeSabre.
And, yeah, he looked like a dad — and not a cool one, either. He was the ultra-embarrassing father whose kids asked to be dropped off a few blocks away from the mall so their friends don’t see his K-car. His mustache was broom-like and olive pants were held up by a single suspender. And, save for the mass of angry muscle bursting from his arms, torso, and chest, Haggar basically dressed to spend a Sunday afternoon knocking back Busch Light and working on his Buick LeSabre.
It’s in this dorky dad solidity that I’ve found so much inspiration. I’m by no means perfect. I’ve been known to flake out on stuff like snack day at daycare. In fact, I’ve been known to do that 2, even 3 months in a row. I get caught up in day-to-day tasks and sometimes lose focus on big-picture goals. In those moments, I think of how Haggar bashes street toughs.
Is this a stretch? For sure. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Haggar was a fun character to control in my video game youth. Moreso, he was an example of what it means to be relentless in pursuit of what’s right for your family. If you stay focused and put in the work, you’ll be where you want to be. Which, for Haggar, was tenderly embracing your daughter in a perfunctory cut scene following citywide carnage. To each dad his own.