- Andrzej Bartkowiak
- Kristin Kreuk, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neal McDonough, Chris Klein
- 96 min.
- Release Date
Videogame fanatics have little to relish when it comes to movie adaptations of popular games. For some reason, Hollywood seems incapable of hiring a writer with the talent to concoct a game-to-screen script of value. Results range from Bob Hoskins donning Super Mario garb to first-person chainsaw shots in Doom to keeping the careers of Paul W.S. Anderson and Uwe Boll alive and well. In other words, the trend has not been encouraging. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li doesn’t inspire any thoughts to the contrary. It’s just as convoluted and inane as any other movie in its classification, except instead of squandering its (largely nonexistent) potential, it proves how slight a chance there was for a good movie to come from a fighter game. Admittedly, much of my spare time as a teenager was spent mastering Street Fighter II on my Sega Genesis, but even in adolescence, I knew better than to desire a movie based on the game. The question is, why didn’t Hollywood learn their lesson after its failed Street Fighter film in 1994, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia (in his final role, no less)?
Short of reformulating Bloodsport with the game’s characters written in, what kind of plot could come from a plotless game? Players would select a character, fight a bout, and battle their way to the end. That’s about the extent of it. But here we are once again, realizing that any story tacked on to the international roster of characters is phony at best. What other reason besides a worldwide fighting competition would bring together the world’s best street fighters? Nothing. At least, nothing that makes any sense. Then again, compared to the Van Damme version, The Legend of Chun-Li might seem like Shakespeare. There’s a sympathetic protagonist, a legitimate villain, and a narrative arc. Granted, only a 7-year-old would find the specifics engaging: When Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) is a child, she’s trained in piano and martial arts by her father. One day, her father is taken by M. Bison (Neal McDonough), a crime lord followed by gimmicky goons like Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Vega (Taboo). She grows up and decides she wants revenge on the man who took her father, so it’s lucky she receives a secret message telling her she must find “Gen”, a master who will give her the power to stop M. Bison’s criminal plans.
Interpol Agent Charlie Nash is also on M. Bison’s trail. The role is given sickeningly clichéd movie cop-isms by Chris Klein, an actor you’ll remember from gems like American Pie and the Rollerball remake. Klein looks like he’s perpetually sucking on lemon drops, his squinty eyes and flared nostrils inciting inadvertent laughter. With his slicked-back hair and wannabe bad boy exterior, he’s playing Christian Slater playing Jack Nicholson, except with none of the associated talent. Lowering the movie from a lame actioner to an absolute train wreck, his performance is one for the record books. Anyway, Nash teams up with Detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood), whose cleavage hangs out just enough to keep Nash muttering eye-rolling lines like, “I love this job.” Meanwhile, Chun-Li finally finds Gen (Robin Shou), who teaches her the art of waving her hands about and forming a ball of energy, which is then projected on an opponent. Most of the characters in the game could do a variation of this move, but it was never explained how. The movie doesn’t clarify this, either. So short of waving my own arms about in an attempt to duplicate the trick, it’ll have to remain a mystery… For now.
(Note: Robin Shou also starred in Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation as Liu Kang, the hero of that series. How does he keep the universes separate? Do you think he ever referred to M. Bison as Shang Tsung by accident? Is this a coincidence, or does this guy just love fighter game movies? Expect to see him next in shoddy movie versions of Eternal Champions, Samurai Showdown, and Virtua Fighter. No, not really.) The strange part of this movie is, there isn’t much street fighting. Most of the characters use firearms, and they fight in the street only on occasion. Several matches take place indoors, others are on a roof, or on a boat. Perhaps the producers forgot the title of the movie. Some hope is offered in the last scene, when it’s suggested that in the inevitably direct-to-DVD sequel, there will be a street fighting competition. Why couldn’t that concept have been realized here, instead of this unintentionally funny dribble?