I haven't been particularly enthusiastic about this movie. I've tried to stay positive as images were leaked and trailers were released, but nothing I saw inspired confidence that this would be anything more than a SciFi Channel movie. But I totally blasted Transformers before it came out, and I ended up liking that movie (but only at first... that's a rant for another time). So how does Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li hold up?
Let me preface this review with a warning: advert your gaze! This isn't going to be pretty! But I'm getting ahead of myself. What's this movie about?
The plot in 5 sentences:
Chun Li (Kristin Kreuk) is a pianist/kung fu expert whose father was abducted by Bison (Neal McDonough) when she was but a wee lass. After her mom dies, she tries to find meaning in her life by traveling to Bangkok and seeking the Web clan, of which Gen (Robin Shou) is a member. Gen reveals that her father still lives as a captive of Bison, and Gen trains her in the mysterious martial art of Profoundly Inexplicable Energy Ball Kung Fu. Bison, meanwhile, tries to seize control of Bangkok by buying up real estate and killing off the other mob bosses with the help of his henchmen, Vega (Taboo) and Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). But there are two rag-tag detectives, Nash (Chris Klein) and Maya (Moon Bloodgood), on Bison's trail looking to take down his criminal empire, and Chun Li will stop at nothing until she has had her revenge!
There's a lot going horribly wrong in this movie. Let's start with:
Chun Li starts out as a clearly full-Asian child. As she grows older, she becomes less and less Asian until adulthood, when she magically turns into Kristin Kreuk who looks, at best, part Asian. Strike one against the suspension of disbelief.
Strike two is that Kristin is but a skinny little waif, leaving one to wonder how in the world this girl who clearly needs to eat something more than her usual Slim Fast shake can beat up every rough-looking shmuck she meets. I'm not asking for much, just give us an actress with at least a little bit of musculature.
The other characters in this picture didn't fair much better. Everyone's acting was bad, but maybe that's because the dialogue was worse. Also, the boss characters (Bison, Vega, and Balrog) lacked both the flair and the colorful costumes of the game. For that matter, so did Chun Li and Gen.
Speaking of Gen, he was played by Robin Shou, who also played Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat movies. Small world.
But the real stars of the movie were the detectives who were tracking Bison: Nash and Maya. Everything these characters did came out of a book of cheesy detective character chiches. I mean, one of the detective's names is "Nash". Seriously. How hilarious is that?!
One word can sum up the plot: convenient. Some characters showed up out of nowhere at convenient times, and others had convenient realizations... all totally unjustified. Strike three against the suspension of disbelief.
At the end of the movie, Gen mentioned attending a Street Fighter tournament to Chun Li, a tournament featuring a super-star named "Ryu". Of course, this presumptuously implies a sequel, the possibility of which I find incredibly remote.
But who cares about crap like plot and character development? When it comes to Street Fighter, all you need is action! But the action was arguably the worst part of the movie.
The action would have been cool if the stunt crew had actually performed the moves implied on the screen. But the shots were cut in that herky-jerky spliced style so that you don't actually see anyone perform a single stunt. Is this what martial arts movies have become? It makes me long for the good old Jackie Chan days when Jackie would perform all the stunts in an extended fight sequence himself... in ONE cut.
Another thing: the battles with the boss characters (Bison, Vega, and Balrog) were short and anti-climatic. They spend the whole movie hyping the awesomeness of these bosses and they were dispersed in but a few kicks.
Not only does Chun Li throw fireballs (the existence of which are never explained) but she also performs her signature Spinning Bird Kick maneuver, the suckdom of which must be seen to be believed.
Overall Score - 1/5
This movie is bad. And not in an "I love the Power Glove, it's so bad" sort of way. The only things going for it are 1) Kristin Kreuk is cute at least, and 2) the Nash/Maya characters are comedy gold, a parody of horrible detective movie characters. But that was certainly not intentional, so I was laughing AT the movie rather than WITH it.
What a horrible way to start the 2009 movie season. Maybe next week's Watchmen will cleanse my palate.
Screen caps from the trailer at Apple.