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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 03/01/09 13:48:30

"Remember When Blowing The Games Actually Made Them Work?"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Earlier today, there were three items that I could barely recall in any great detail: the 'Street Fighter' video games, as worthy a button-masher as any when my age was in the single digits; the 1994 big-screen adaptation of said video games, in which Jean-Claude Van Damme and the late Raul Julia embarrassed themselves; and the trailer for 2009’s incarnation, 'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.' Having now seen that entire film, I can only say that we better hurry this review up before it too evaporates from my memory like snow on the sun’s surface.

Kristen Kreuk plays Chun-Li, talented concert pianist and equally skilled martial artist seeking revenge against the big, bad, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Bison (Neal McDonough), who was born to Irish parents but raised on the streets of Bangkok without them. He somehow still retains an Irish brogue, and his every appearance is accompanied by a tiger’s growl. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, while pursuing her father’s kidnapper, Chun-Li rejects her wealth, lives among the common criminal, and is trained by a mysterious man (Robin Shou) who at one point only appears to have died.

Forget Joseph Campbell; this is pretty much first-time screenwriter Justin Marks rehashing Batman Begins, and if Street Fighter ‘94’s Steven E. de Souza was this franchise’s equivalent to Joel Schumacher, then I hesitate to compare this film’s Andrzej Bartkowiak to Christopher Nolan, if only because it’s that of apples to a mere orange peel. Three DMX vehicles and one other video game adaptation (2005's Doom) have failed to aptly prepare Bartkowiak for creating interesting fight scenes (save for one mildly nifty and all-too-brief escape by a captive Chun-Li), which the DMX vehicles can at least claim. This man even manages to rob a lesbian strut-off, a girl-on-girl bathroom brawl, and a subsequent pole-dance fighting sequence of any inherent titillation. But hey, how about that speed ramping and slo-mo! (I presume the two credited editors were each assigned to handle one or the other.)

Even after the first act gets bogged down with all that backstory that one usually presses the ‘start’ button to skip past, Marks insists on having Shou dole out fortune-cookie wisdom while Interpol agent Chris Klein takes a stab at cop banter (when describing Bison: “this guy walks through raindrops” – so, what, he gets wet?). No, Klein here is almost as dangerous in Bangkok as Nic Cage recently was, what with the bad hair and worse bravado aching from scene after scene. Admittedly, his swagger is almost always welcome, though, as an alternative to Bison-centric flashbacks and his own hacky threats (“Your father was the milk of my enterprise… but even milk has its expiration date.”).

But when Bison (growl!) says “this won’t end well,” one has to admire his open dedication to consistency. For those working on the film, it’s a mostly clumsy endeavor, and for those watching, it’s a mostly dull one. Those least discerning fanboys should be pleased by the briefest appearance by blade-wielding Vega and an even more fleeting mention of series lead Ryu if they plan to watch this at all. The rest of us will merely have to sit back and savor Chris Klein’s eventual audition reel for a 'Zoolander' sequel.

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