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Old 03-03-2009, 04:10 PM
Andrzej Bartkowiak's Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

Remember watching the older "Street Fighter" movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme? Remember thinking how it could not possibly get any worse than that? Well, prepare to be surprised/disappointed all over again, because somehow this film achieves just that.

The story tells of how Chun-Li's father was kidnapped by Bison (Neal McDonough) when she was a little girl. Years later, when Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) has grown up, she receives a mysterious scroll that leads her to Bangkok where she meets Gen (Robin Shou), leader of The Order of the Web. With his help, she learns what she needs to know to face Bison and take revenge for what he did in the past.

It's fascinating how an entire movie about Chun-Li can tell us so little about her. The one thing that it teaches us about her that we couldn't already figure out from the games is that she is apparently also a concert pianist. What this has to do with her character, I have no idea (perhaps showing she has great flexibility in her fingers for her eventually mastery of kung-fu?).

My knowledge of the games is restricted to the original "Street Fighter II" and "Super Street Fighter II" for the SNES. Thinking back to these games, I remember there being something about a revenge story involving Chun-Li wanting to kill Bison, but, then again, it seemed that everyone had a reason to. Whether or not there was an original back story to Chun-Li is not important, what is important is that they could have thought of a much better one than this.

It has a lot of what you would expect from a movie based on a fighting video game. There are several fight scenes, some are even well-choreographed. The thing with these fight scenes is that most of them lasted about ten seconds or less, which was really strange as you would expect somewhat more "epic" fight scenes in a movie called "Street Fighter."

We are given the obligatory montage of Chun-Li learning whatever style of fighting she ends up using. Eventually we learn of Bison's incredibly evil plot, one that is so evil, that we can clearly see why he must be stopped. He buys a slum in Bangkok and plans to tear it down to build houses. That's right, he's an evil real estate tycoon! Perhaps this should have been saved for Ridley Scott's upcoming "Monopoly" movie.

Another thing that was so disappointing about this movie was that there were not that many characters from the original video games. There was Chun-Li (obviously), Bison, his henchman Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan), and a very, very brief appearance by Vega. The two cops on the case are Maya (Moon Bloodgood) and Nash (Chris Klein). Maya is apparently new to the "Street Fighter" universe while Nash was an old Army buddy of Guile's and appeared, along with Gen, in the later "Street Fighter Alpha" games. Unfortunately, Guile doesn't make an appearance in the film because Van Damme refused to play the part again.

One of the major problems with this film was its handling of the material. It tries to take the story way to seriously, which is a near impossibility given the incredibly absurd storyline and characters. The one good thing that the original film had going for it was that it played off as if everyone knew it was a joke. Raul Julia had done a great job hamming it up as Bison while the production design was able to capture some of the cheesiness of the original games. Does that mean it was a good movie? No, just a better handling of the material.

On to the acting. Kristin Kreuk does a decent job as the titular character and it was good to see Robin Shou, who originally played Liu-Kang in the somewhat underrated first "Mortal Kombat" film, show up as Gen. But then there were the strange additions of Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan as Balrog, who just didn't seem to care about the role at all, and Neal McDonough, who had done a great job playing Buck in "Band of Brothers," as Bison. You would think that actors of this caliber would know enough to stay away from bad material like this. However, worst actor of the bunch has to go to Chris Klein, who just didn't seem to know how to deliver several of his lines.

Andrzej Bartkowiak's direction was very choppy at times, but that didn't come off as much of a surprise after viewing his filmography: "Doom," "Cradle 2 the Grave," "Exit Wounds," and "Romeo Must Die." This is screenwriter Justin Marks' first big feature and it shows. The dialogue is absurdly bad throughout and the story just feels forced and contrived. Here's an example of how absurdly bad it gets: we are told a little about Bison's back story. He apparently transferred his conscience into the body of his unborn daughter, leaving him to be completely evil. This is rather amusing in how absurd it is, but again, the film treats it as completely serious, making it come of as incredibly sad (Not sad as in emotionally, but sad in the fact that they tried to make it serious).

Now it's time to go through the "good" things. There's a slight "fanboy moment" when we see Chun-Li do her infamous "spinning kick" (which is the only actual move shown from the game). The other good thing was that they decided to include Vega, even for however brief a time he was there. He was always one of the more mysterious characters of the game, but alas, he's on and off the screen in less than three minutes. Those were the two "good" things I noticed in this mess.

Perhaps a "Street Fighter" movie is just not a good idea. Who knows if there is a story that is actually worth telling in the universe of these video games. Filmmakers have attempted two live-action films and failed to make the stories engaging enough to be worth watching. However, they will probably try again in the future. Perhaps they should try the story of Ken and Ryu, and, of course, they've got to throw in Vega. 2/4 stars.
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