March 3, 2009

Movie Review: Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun-Li

streetfighter3_largeWay back in 1987 a game arrived in arcades that would go on to spawn a series that influence a generation of gamers and leave an indelible mark on virtually every fighting game that has come since. It is a game I have never played in any form. In 1991 the sequel was released, advancing on what the original began and expanding what is possible in a fighting game. This was the one I played, the only one of the series. I wasn't terribly good at it, but I was always game to give it a go. The games proved so popular as to spawn a live action film in 1994, starring Jean Claude Van Damme and featuring the last big screen appearance by Raul Julia. The film was not well received. Since then, the game series has been going strong and has now spawned a new film, not connected to the original game.

streetfighter10Among online communities the new movie has sparked much debate not only about its quality, or lack there of, but about its adherence to canon. There are people who argue both ways, with no one able to produce rock solid evidence that they are right. I never played the game for the story, aside from who the "good guys" were and who the "bad guys" were, plus one M. Bison being the main bad guy. Seriously, sometimes discussion of canon within a series can get a little out of hand. If a film or show is part of a running series, it sure better follow the canon; however, there is another alternative. Different creators can have different interpretations of the source material leading to content that is not canon. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as the story told bears a passing familiarity to the source and that it stands up on its own. This movie, unfortunately, does not stand up.

This new film centers on, you guessed it, Chun-Li (Kristen Kreuk). We begin with Chun-Li as a little girl, her father standing dutifully by, wishing the best for his daughter. Things are going well for the family as they move to Hong Kong. Father and daughter are near inseparable, especially when he begins to teach her the art of Wushu.

The family dream does not last long as crime boss Bison (Neil McDonough) arrives with his henchman Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan) to collect daddy for their own nefarious deeds. Young Chun-Li witnesses this, and is Revere scarred. Well, one would think that.

Skip forward a few years, Chun-Li is all grown and seems to be doing fine without her daddy cheering her on. Following one of her piano performances, she receives a scroll. It is an ancient scroll that instructs her to leave her life behind and go to Thailand, Bangkok to be exact. This is all the beginning of the end for the film.

streetfighter6Chun-Li sets out to find her father and uncover the secrets behind her disappearance. Before she is able to do that, she undergoes training from the mysterious Gen (Robin Shou) who shows her how to create glowing energy ball using, what looks like, Tai Chi movements.

Meanwhile, Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) shows up. He is a hardened Interpol agent tasked with aiding Det. Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) in tracking down the secretive Shadaloo crime syndicate, which happens to be headed by Bison.

Before long, Chun-Li and Nash cross paths with Bison just trying to kill them all as he goes about his real estate scheme, buying up the slums of Bangkok to build luxury estates. Gee, that sort of sounds like something Lex Luthor would.

There are a couple of fights along the way, including one between Chun-Li and Vega (Taboo). However, they are rather choppy and wire assisted. It was almost like they wanted to cover up the fact that none of the were real fighters. I smell a conspiracy.

Anyway, the film heads in the expected direction with the expected outcome, and a conclusion that is a tease ripped right from Batman Begins. Something tells me we won't be seeing that payoff anytime soon as I have a hard time seeing the box office potential of this film warranting the further expense.

The story is peppered with voice-over exposition through Chun-Li. The problem is that a lot of it does not make sense, does not jibe with what we see, and is downright silly at times. It is almost as if screenwriter Justin Marks (this is his feature debut) wrote the screenplay, realized their were a number of holes and then wrote the voice-over in an attempt to cover the holes.

A big problem is the scroll. It would seem to be an important point, but all we get initially is that it is pretty. Some time passes, would seem like months or more (the film does not seem to have a set rate for time advancement), and then she decides to dig it out. Initially the translation just says to go to Bangkok, but her voice-over indicates she must leave her comfortable lifestyle and live like a bum. It did not make a lot of sense and added nothing to the story.

streetfighter11That is just one example. Character motivations are fuzzy at best and they just seem to pop up whereever the story needs them to with no regards to actual development or connective tissue to link it all together.

What I was hoping for was a bad, but fun, movie. What I got was a bad, but stupid movie. I could not help but shake my head at some of the silly things that happen. I guess this world does not require any logic in its inhabitants.

The acting is downright poor. Kristen Kreuk is certainly a pretty face up there on the big screen, but when it comes to acting, she leaves much to be desired, it always looks like she is acting. Neil McDonough fails to bring his A game, and I generally like him. I kept trying to figure out why he was using a sporadic, and poor, Irish accent. The rest of the cast is just there, not offering much to the whole.

Still, there is one performance worth mentioning. Chris Klein as Nash is absolutely hilarious. It was like he was playing a combination of Don Johnson and Clint Eastwood while suffering from constipation. I get the impression that he realized just how bad the movie was going to be and decided to take his performance to the edge and just keep on going. His wild character is charismatic and you will not be able to tear your eyes away from his personal train wreck.

Bottomline. Whether you believe this is canon or not, it does not matter as the movie is just flat out bad. It is so utterly, laughably bad that you will not have a clue as to what is actually going on. Can anyone explain the reason for the scroll? This movie will just enter the ranks of bad video game adaptations.

Not Recommended.


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