Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
starring Kristen Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Moon Bloodgood, Michael Clarke Duncan
written by Justin Marks
directed by Andrzej Bartowiak
release date: 27 February 2009
dvd release date: 30 June 2009
Fox, 96 mins., Rated PG-13
There's Frakking Worse Things
I'm guessing that eagerly anticipating a DVD release of a movie to see exactly how bad it is isn't exactly the best way to watch a movie for the first time. And yet, with nearly unanimous negative reviews for Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, how much of a open mind can one have, eh? So I basically rushed to my nearest Redbox, added a promo code (see, I get to watch Street Fighter for free! Win/win), raced home and popped this beauty in. And y'know, it's actually not that bad. I was preppin' for the worst of the worst, and it's pretty much just average, about what I was initially expecting.
As a child, Chun-Li watched as her father was abducted by a giant muscular dude (Duncan) and some other martial arts thugs. Now as a grown adult, Chun-Li (Kreuk) has went on to have a successful life as a pianist, making a mullah amount of money, but has yet to make peace with her father's disappearance or the recent death of her mother. After a performance, a mysterious scroll appears written in ancient Chinese, and her quest to find the meaning of the scroll's contents brings her to the streets of Bangkok, and eventually to martial arts and chi master Gen. Teaching her to control her anger and to be a even more deadly opponent, Gen paves the way and points Chun-Li in the direction of Bison (McDonough), the man behind everything not good in her life.
2009 has not been a good year for beloved franchises receiving good adaptations. Specifically, it seems any franchise is doomed once Fox gets their hands on it. At the moment, the only other franchise I'm thinking of is the Dragonball series, but only because that's fresh in my head. And not to cause heart-attacks, but I actually enjoyed Dragonball: Evolution, fully knowing that it wasn't going to be anywhere near spectacular. I guess that's the key - expect absolutely nothing out of products like these, and you just might find some enjoyment out of the experience. But I wager that's a tad difficult for rabid fans of Street Fighter and Dragonball, who probably find The Legend of Chun-Li and Evolution as motion picture abominations, and not worthy of the franchise title. I get that, really I do (Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA, anyone?). As it stands, evaluating Chun-Li as a move living up to its own merits, it's basically average without anything you're going to remember a few hours after you finished it.
If you notice in my lame plot description, nowhere do I bring up the the involvement of the Bangkok Police Department/Interpol/whatever, because their presence is basically null and entirely unnecessary. Aside from the "climatic" battle scene at the end, they don't really do anything, let alone affect the story in some manner. For those that care, spoilers follow: Chun-Li enlists the help of Nash and Maya to bring along a squadron of Interpol agents to kick some Bison & Co. ass, which could possibly warrant their inclusion in the movie, but I think it would be more dramatic and interesting having Chun-Li and Gen try to pull it off on their own. Plus, we would be saved a quite bad performance by Chris Klein, but on the negative side, we'd be losing the hotness that is Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation).
And on that note, I guess it's as good as time as any to bring up the performances. While not reaching the levels of atrocity and brain cell-depleting numbness that's been uttered around the campfire, this isn't exactly the best display of talent in the marketplace. First and foremost, the best performance comes from Bloodgood, who radiates a sexiness than Chun-Li doesn't even come close to exhibiting. In fact, about 40 minutes into the movie, Chun-Li attempts to seduce Cantana, a member of Bison's crew, by dancing all sexy around her. This 30 seconds of supposed "hotness" becomes more or less a distraction because I couldn't help but think, "what brilliant git thought that outfit looked remotely good on anyone?' Granted, not the thought that everyone's going to have, but this sequence has zero sexiness to it, and that dress didn't show Kreuk's off well at all.
Moving on, yes: Chris Klein (American Pie) is as bad as they say. Deepening his voice attempting to create a sense of...mystery? badassery? drug addicti? or what have you...Klein tries to come off as a bad boy detective who knows everything and has some freakin' BRILLIANT one-liners. Apparently, someone on YouTube had a video that was just Klein's scenes in this flick, but was taken down by Fox and their lawyers. Hopefully in the future another video arises, because Klein's bad performance (I won't bother calling it acting) is fun! And as our main actress, Kruek is passable, and it's fantastic to finally see her break out of her Lana Lang shell, but it's strange that after all the shit her character went through in Smallville, Kruek's isn't able to convincingly portray Chun-Li's pissed offed-ness when it comes to her father and Bison. But as an action hero, pretty convincing. And Michael Clarke Duncan (The Scorpion King) is totally fun as the Balrog, Bison's enforcer. Although, I wish he had a different name, 'cuz all that springs to mind is the giant fiery creature Gandalf faced in Fellowship.
The basic problem with The Legend of Chun-Li (for non-Street Fighter devotees who simply find this entire picture a jumbled mess) is that the entire picture comes across as an unloved project with a script made by a first-time screenwriter filling in all the steps on how to write a script. There's no emotion from either the script or the director, no hint of actual giving a damn from any of the actors, it's simply a bland movie that doesn't offer the viewer any reason to watch it. If the action was awesome enough, I'd recommend this title just on that account, but for the most part, it's quite unspectacular. Funnily enough, basically the only 'real' homage to the game it's based on is the martial arts throughout the movie, which is far from reality driven, but fun to watch. Although, sadly, there's only about three real cool action scenes.
Legend of Chun-Li may or may not deserve the lashing it's recieving, being as how that's all dependent on the viewer's opinion, but there's been far worse offerings this year. May I present Miss March, a horrible, horrible, horrible movie that I enjoyed because it was bad and (somehow) made me chuckle? Or how about Crank: High Voltage, a movie more frakked up than anything in recent memory. Chun-Li doesn't have anything noteworthy to make it a good movie, but it's not 100% total and utter bad. Although I wouldn't recommend it (Dragonball Evolution!!!), it's worth watching if you're curious. Or you want to watch Kristen Kreuk. Or what not do to when writing a screenplay. Er, yeah...Rifftrax, anyone?