Review: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Kristin Kreuk stars as the title character, whose childhood dream was to be a concert pianist, whilst her proud Chinese businessman dad (Edmund Chen) also trained her in martial arts (Mum was white, by the way). Poor old dad gets nabbed by megalomaniacal criminal Bison (Neal McDonough) and his hulking henchman Balrog (The late Michael Clarke Duncan). Years pass and Chun-Li, now a for real pianist, is given some kind of scroll that leads her to Bangkok and in search of the elusive Gen (Robin Shou, who had a role in the film version of “Mortal Kombat”), who will further train her in martial arts, and aid her in bringing down Bison’s empire. Meanwhile, determined Interpol agents Chris Klein and Moon Bloodgood are also looking to bring the evil businessman down. Josie Ho plays Cantana, a lesbian associate of Bison’s.

Holy crap this movie is a royal turd. I ventured into this Andrzej Bartkowiak (“Exit Wounds”, “Romeo Must Die”, “Doom”) film from 2009 under the assumption that hey, it couldn’t get any worse than the Van Damme “Street Fighter” before it, right? Well, I’m not so sure, because while this is a terrible film, it’s so damn wildly different in its badness from that film that it’s hard to tell. Aside from the absolutely shocking yellow credits (soon to be followed by similarly impossible to read subtitles), the opening scene gives hope, if only because Michael Clarke Duncan is an awesome badass not to be fucked with. The opening fight is good, but then in walks Neal McDonough with his blue-eyed total suckage as a performer. Mind you, Duncan’s presence is so mammoth and dominating, that it takes a while to even notice McDonough, ‘coz Duncan’s awesomeness renders anyone else not named Tom Hanks or Tim Roth invisible. Duncan was too damn good for this shit. McDonough plays Bison, but in no damn way is he anything like any interpretation of that character you’ve ever seen. He’s certainly not Raul Julia, and prequel or not (And I’m guessing that’s what this is), this just ain’t right. Apparently Bison is meant to have Irish heritage, but did Raul Julia look or sound remotely Irish to you? No, but then  McDonough doesn’t sound Irish either, although I think he might possibly be trying for an accent located somewhere around Europe. The whole movie is kinda like that; really weird, nothing like you’d expect it to be, and absolutely awful. Speaking of awful, that brings me to Kristin Kreuk and Chris Klein. Oh dear. I wouldn’t call either of these two terribly talented actors, but I’ve tolerated them before in other projects (Hell even McDonough has managed to not suck once or twice). Here, though, they’re absolutely shocking. I usually find Kreuk bland, but never incompetent like she is here, her voice-over narration is horribly unenthusiastic. She’s pretty and might be able to carry a film, but not a martial arts actioner, certainly not this one. On the action side of things she must be pretty pathetic because Mr. Director (who used to be Mr. Cinematographer) has been forced to employ all manner of annoying tricks (like slow-mo and inexplicable CGI fireballs) to distract us from noticing that Kreuk is clearly not a martial artist. So why not cast a martial artist then? Meanwhile, no one’s gonna tell me that her role was originally written for a Eurasian. That’s B.S. right there. A tragically miscast Chris Klein is in a class of his own here in sheer gobsmacking awfulness. His attempt at looking tough and gritty, is some of the most unintentionally hilarious stuff I’ve seen on screen in a long time. It seemed like for a start, that the role was written for a Vin Diesel or somebody of that ilk. For a thespian, Klein makes Keanu look like Olivier. He’s been fine in other films, presumably because he always plays the dumb nice guy. That’s your thing Chris, stick to it. So bad is Klein here that he approaches Nic Cage heights of overacting, to the point where I was figuring that Nic Cage had somehow gone through a “Face/Off” style switched body deal with Klein. Moon Bloodgood is surprisingly amateurish, but then, most of her scenes are opposite Klein who is incompetent, so I don’t quite blame her. Aside from Duncan, the only decent acting comes from Josie Ho, and she’s in the film even less, with her character being given rather shoddy treatment.

The film is appallingly written, having way too many story strands, including a back-story for Bison. A back-story in a prequel? Really? Also, I hope you weren’t really expecting a martial arts film, because there’s not a whole lot of action in the film. I mean, it’s not like you’d expect a whole lot of fighting in a film called “Street Fighter” is it? The script is just awful, I mean there’s one point where Klein and Kreuk show up and act like they know each other. Fine, except the 5 minutes of footage that somehow explains this acquaintance isn’t here. Why the hell would Kreuk be asking Klein for help? It’s totally incompetent, and we never do find out exactly why Bison has kidnapped Chun Li’s dad, unless I blinked. Oh, and Mr. Bartkowiak’s penchant for scenes with sexy girls dancing rears its head here too. He seems to have a strip club scene in all of his films, though here there’s no nudity and it’s just a night club. Couldn’t he have removed that scene and I dunno, fleshed out the story and characters a bit more? (The fact that it’s a Sapphic-laced tease also got up my goat. Don’t tease some Kreuk lesbian lovin’ if you ain’t gonna go even part of the way, you jerk!) The finale involving a giant bamboo structure seems to want to evoke Jackie Chan…except that the structure doesn’t really come into play all that much. Like I said, bloody incompetent all round.

This one’s so bad, even Albert Pyun (“Mean Guns”, “Omega Doom”) and Uwe Boll (“House of the Dead”, “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”) would call it a flaming piece of shit. Gamers disappointed with what Van Damme and co served up back in ’94, won’t feel any less insulted and infuriated with this new take on their beloved computer game series. Just play the games, guys, by and large, they won’t let you down like Hollywood has (Even I remember liking the first game).

Rating: D-


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