I usually have no problem going on about GWG movies at some length. Hell, I even managed 750 words on DOA: Dead or Alive, and for that one, I had to re-read my review to remember what it was about. But when I got to the end of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, my first thought was, “What the hell am I going to write about this?” It seemed likely the only way I’d get to 750 words, would be by repeating the title one hundred and twenty-five times. For the film is ill-conceived, poorly cast, badly written and directed by the man who managed to make Jet Li look bad, not once but twice, in Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave.
I am not a difficult man to satisfy, especially in the area of Hollywood action heroine flicks. I’m so pleased they are making the effort at all, that as long as it is in focus, and the dialogue largely audible, I am generally a happy camper. Not so here, because SF:TLoC-L [I trust you appreciate how I am not gratuitously padding my word-count?] commits the cardinal sin for the genre. It’s boring – to the extent that I actually dozed off for a bit about two-thirds of the way in. So, full disclosure: this review is based on only about 90% of the movie. It’s possible the ten minutes I missed were sublimely good, so amazing they redeemed the entire rest of the movie. However, I would be inclined to bet against that outcome, as somewhat unlikely.
I think my major issue is that the movie seems to be aimed at a mentally-challenged eight-year old. There’s way too much voiceover, which is usually the sign of a director who can’t trust the script or his skills to put over the necessary content or emotion. And it also insists on Spelling Out Everything For The Audience, which is equally irritating. Case in point. Chun-Li (Kreuk) helps a guy being beaten up on the subway: he has a mysterious cobweb tattoo. Then, later, when she’s going through Chinatown searching for someone to translate a scroll, she encounters a man in the street with the same tattoo. Not two minutes later, the same design shows up on the scroll, but Bartkowiak insists on flashing back to both the subway and street guys and their tattoos. Well, duh…
The plot starts with Chun-Li growing up, and her father is abducted by Bison (McDonough) to help with his plans for… whatever. World domination, prob’ly. As an adult, Chun-Li is now a pianist, though the scenes of her in concert are incredibly badly-faked. The arrival of the mysterious scroll has her heading off to Bangkok, where she links up with Gen (Shou), who completes her training. Conveniently, Bison has just returned to Bangkok, where he grew up, and is now planning to take over a large swathe of the city, regardless of the views of the inhabitants. Interpol agent Nash (Klein) and local cop Maya (Moon Bloodgood) are out to stop him, and find Chun-Li’s presence as much a distraction as a help.
And I believed Street Fighter II was a fighting game. Silly me. It’s far too talky: all mouth and no trousers, to borrow a good ol’ British phrase. The fights themselves, choreographed by Dion Lam, aren’t bad, though the welding of some of the Street Fighter moves into the game doesn’t work – Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick, for example, just looks silly. But otherwise, they aren’t awful; there’s a nice brawl in a bathroom between our heroine and Bison’s henchwomen. However, particularly in the first hour, there just aren’t enough of them, and what should be a fast-paced slugfest becomes bogged down as Chun-Li meanders her way, with a somewhat concerned expression, around the slums of Bangkok [which actually look surprisingly liveable. You want real slums, try Mumbai].
However, the casting executive who thought a member of the Black-Eyed Peas was suitable to play Vega should be taken out and flogged mercilessly. This is not sarcasm. It’s not someone who looks like a member of the Black-Eyed Peas. It is a member of the Black-Eyed Peas. His martial arts skills are almost as unconvincing as Chun-Li’s piano-playing. Almost. Klein is equally inept as Nash – the witty banter between he and Maya hits the floor with a resounding clunk, due to the complete lack of chemistry between the two actors. Similarly, McDonough has none of the charisma necessary for Bison. Say what you like about the Van Damme Street Fighter movie, and the venom is probably dripping from your lips there, it did at least have Raul Julia.
In fact, this movie pretty much makes the original look Oscar-worthy in most ways. The best depiction of the game still remains the manic sequence in Jackie Chan’s City Hunter where he and Gary Daniels went toe-to-toe in a variety of epically-silly costumes. Chan made a much better Chun-Li than Kreuk could ever hope to, and any future list of “10 Crappiest Video-game Adaptations of All Time” (admittedly, the main issue here is stopping after just ten) will be judged largely on how highly this ranks. Is that 750 words yet?
Dir: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Star: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou