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

Rating: **
Release Date: 2/27/09
Fight Choreography: Dion Lam
Cast: Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Klein, Moon Bloodstone, Cheng Pei Pei

Be careful what you wish for...

For years I've wanted to see a "Street Fighter" movie that focused on my favorite character, Chun-Li. Ever since "Street Fighter II" came out she's been a cultural icon, paving the way for other female fighting characters to follow. She also has the most interesting back story of the cast, and arguably the easiest to write a screenplay for. And yet, it goes horribly wrong. While Capcom realized that the original "Street Fighter" (1994) movie was a horrible mistake, they completely failed to identify the reasons why. This naturally doomed them to making the same mistakes again. A "Street Fighter" movie should be a movie that involves street fighting (which would seem obvious), but once again we get a "cops vs. crime syndicate" movie that ends with a gunfight.

They more or less preserve the spirit of Chun-Li's story, if not the details. A nasty crime lord named Bison (Neal McDonough) is responsible for the death of Chun-Li's father, but instead of being a TV reporter, this time Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) is a concert pianist. This still doesn't line up with the video game continuity, but it's tolerable. At least they establish that she also has a martial arts background, and the first half of the film involves her training with Master Gen (Robin Shou) to get her revenge. Her interactions with Gen are definitely the highlight of the film, and if it were a simple train-and-avenge film it would be a fairly enjoyable outing. Unfortunately, the film is completely derailed by the inclusion of an Interpol side story involving a goofy Chris Klein and a ridiculous Moon Bloodstone. The two of them are laughably awful, and they utter some of the worst dialog I've heard in years. Who writes this crap and thinks it's even remotely acceptable? Whenever they show up, it's like watching some horrible low budget TV cop show. Ugh. Why are they even in the movie? They add absolutely nothing and only invite disdain. The film also treads into B-movie territory with absurd and lengthy narrations by Chun-Li, as if the audience weren't capable of figuring out what's going on. And let's not forget dear old Bison. Much like the first film, the writers misinterpreted his "psycho powers" as being "psychotic powers." He's a complete lunatic, which the film further supports by delving into a totally bizarre and incomprehensible back story involving macabre sacrificial rituals. Again, why?

In the film's defense, it's considerably better than the first movie, and it's thankfully not directed by franchise destroyer Uwe Boll. These are faint praises, but at least the film is (mostly) watchable. As is typical for a video game adaptation, the original costumes are completely disregarded and all of the characters are given new looks. While Kristin Kreuk is neither Chinese or a martial artist, she does a passable job of looking and acting tough. Her training sequences with wushu expert Robin Shou are delightful, but her actual combat scenes are shot in the dark and crippled by gratuitous wirework and poor editing. She also engages in a dreadful lesbian dance sequence that ends in a catfight in a women's restroom. Why is it that whenever two girls fight onscreen in American films, they're either wet or covered in mud? Makes no sense to me and tends to ruin the intensity and emotional impact. Another wasted opportunity that once again raises the question of why Hollywood is incapable of making a good video game movie adaptation. It's like they're not even trying, which is extremely frustrating considering how great the animated "Street Fighter II" (1994) movie was. At its best, if you can block out the horrible performances by Chris Klein and Moon Bloodstone, "The Legend Of Chun-Li" is a harmless guilty pleasure for female action fans, with enough subtle nods to the source material to acknowledge its roots.