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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. "Black Belt Norah Jones"
1 stars

Some of you out there may be wondering exactly why I felt compelled to go out in the dead of night in order to see an apparent meatball of a movie like “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” and report on its artistic merits or lack thereof. After all, it is a movie that is based on a videogame that I don’t think anyone has really played for years and which inspired an earlier cinematic craptacular that is best remembered for a bizarre cast that included Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia (in his final role) and Aussie pop star Kylie Minogue in an appearance seemingly designed to lure my younger brother into the multiplex. Based on that fact alone, not to mention that Fox refused to screen the film in advance for anyone, I could have easily skipped over it and followed any number of pursuits--doing the dishes, ogling the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (I don’t want to seem gauche but I have been vapor locked on page 71 for about a week now), checking out the bonus features on my review copy DVD of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”--that didn’t involve sitting through something called “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.” So why did I go? Well, I could give some long-winded explanation about how I try to see everything but since I had originally intended on blowing this one off myself, that isn’t entirely true. The reason is amazingly simple: this was a terrible week for major movie releases, I needed something to write/talk about for my various outlets and I would just as soon plunge my extremities in a deep-fat fryer than sit through that Jonas Brothers nonsense. And as you may have guessed by this point, if for no other reason that I seem to be going to extreme lengths to avoid talking about it, the film is pretty awful, bad enough to go down as this generation’s “Max Payne.”

From what I am able to gather from the title, which isn’t quite as good as the immortal “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” but which will make do for now, the film is actually some kind of prequel designed to offer us an explanation of the origins of one of the game’s more popular characters, the kung-fu cutie known as Chun-Li. In flashbacks, we learn that as a wee lass, she was the daughter of a rich and powerful businessman who dream in life was to see her succeed as a concert pianist and that he was taken from her and presumably murdered years earlier by doughy roundeye Asian crime lord Bison (Neal McDonough) and his big, beefy and spectacularly ineffective henchman Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). When the film picks up with her a few years later (now played by Kristin Kreuk), she has achieved the dream of musical success but before she can pursue a lifetime of having her CDs sold exclusively at participating Starbucks, she receives a mysterious scroll that implores her to abandon the life she has known in order come to Bangkok and search for a mysterious person known as Gen (Robin Shou) who has some clues as to who she really is and her true purpose in life. Because she apparently realizes that she is a character in a dopey kung-fu movie, she immediately drops everything in her life and heads off to Bangkok. Because she apparently is an idiot, she doesn’t bring any of what I presume is her vast fortune along and winds up living on the mean streets of the city (while still looking fabulous) before finally coming across Gen after she gets into a brawl in an alley with some local toughs.

Anyway, it turns out that dear old dad is still alive and has spent the last few years as the prisoner of Bison, presumably because Bison apparently realizes that he is in a dopey kung-fu movie as well and knows that he needs something that will eventually attract the attention of the one person who could possibly destroy him. During this time, Bison has managed to turn himself into the shadowy overlord of the Bangkok criminal underground and is about to launch a diabolical plot to. . .well, to force the residents of the local slums out of their homes, buy up the real estate on the cheap and build luxury homes and office buildings on the land. In order to prepare for rescuing Dad and destroying Bison, Chun-Li begins training with Gen (a program that involves her learning to fight blindfolded, create and hurl unexplained balls of energy from her groin and listen with a straight face at such aphorisms as “You are hurting yourself”) and going out at night to pick off Bison’s underlings, utilizing her mastery of CGI-assisted martial arts and lesbian-themed club dancing, before getting to the big boy himself. Also in pursuit of Bison is a mismatched buddy cop team, consisting of local officer Maya (Moon Bloodgood) and tough-talking, ultra-cynical Interpol officer Nash (Chris Klein), that manages to screw up a simple stakeout but who possess the kind of deductive clarity to put all the various clues and pieces together so completely that you might think that they were walking around with a copy of the script. Oh yeah, there is also great importance placed on a mysterious package that is arriving in Bangkok that is known as the “White Rose” and which seems to be of great importance to Bison’s plot, though I’ll be damned if I can explain why.

If there is one good thing to be said about “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” and there really isn’t if the truth be told, it is that this is not one of those films that flirts with respectability for a reel or so before falling to pieces. No, this film at least has the quiet dignity to stink up the joint right from the get-go. The storyline, as you can probably deduce, is one of those contraptions that is idiotic even by the standards of the genre--if anyone can explain exactly why Bison requires the assistance of Chun-Li’s father to pull off his super-evil land grab, please drop me line with a detailed explanation. (On second thought, don’t.) The fight scenes are massive disappointments--every single is listlessly conceived, sloppily executed and blatantly tricked out with CGI trickery in a desperate attempt to keep viewers from noticing just how listlessly conceived and sloppily executed they are. Of course, even if the fight scenes were brilliantly staged ballets of brutality that put even the eye-popping brawls from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to shame, they still wouldn’t have worked because it is impossible for even the most indulgent viewer to suspend the amount of belief required the support the notion that a character played by Kristen Kreuk is performing even a trace amount of the on-screen mayhem. She is cute as a button, to be sure, but she just comes across as too fragile and delicate to be believable in any of the action scenes. Of course, one could suggest that action babes like Milla Jovovich and Ziyi Zhang don’t exact seem like combative types but they at least managed to create the illusion that they could kick beaucoup ass while still looking salon perfect--Kreuk, on the other hand, always looks as if her chief concern is less the depravations of Bison and more the condition of her nails.

That said, while “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” (a title that becomes more and more mesmerizing each time I type it out) utterly fails in its mission to provide audiences with a decent amount of action-packed eye candy (though it may inadvertently do so next weekend when younger viewers start buying tickets for it and sneaking in to see the R-rated “Watchmen” instead), it does give them so many inadvertently hilarious moments--we are talking Uwe Boll levels of unintentional laughs--that they may be too busy rolling in the aisles to notice. There are so many of them, in fact, that it is almost impossible to determine which is the funniest. Is it the part where Chun-Li’s friend hands her this humongous ancient scroll--the kind that Indiana Jones would normally be searching for--and casually remarks, “Oh, I almost forgot--this came for you.” Is it the revelation that the shell corporation that Bison is doing his dirty work from is actually called the Esperanto Corporation. Is it the aforementioned lesbian-themed dance-off that eventually involves Chun-Li crushing her enemies while working a stripper poll? Is it the part where Bison describes one hapless person as “the milk of the organization” and then demonstrates that he was apparently referring to Harvey? Is it the moment when we discover that Bison is not only powerful enough to make a call to get the police off of his back, he is apparently powerful enough to get the entire force evicted from their offices? Is it the heavy-handed way that the film, which contains precious little street fighting tries to tie itself into the whole “Street Fighter” mythos through the use of a classified ad and a vague name reference? (I am only assuming that the dropped name has something to do with it--while it meant nothing to me, the four guys sitting behind me that comprised the rest of the audience at the showing I attended seemed to think it was hilarious.)

No, the high (or low, depending on your perspective) point of hilarity on display here comes from the presence of Chris Klein, best remembered as the cheerfully amiable dope in the brilliant “Election” and the reasonably entertaining “American Pie” as the studly and tough-talking Interpol officer on the trail of Bison. At the risk of overselling his contributions, his performance is one of the most hilariously awful turns ever captured by a movie camera--we are talking Cary-Elwes-in-the-last-reel-of-“Saw” bad--and as it goes on and on, the only real tension comes from wondering if it can actually get worse. Words cannot possibly do justice to his approach to the role--imagine a demented blend of your standard blustery 80’s-era movie cop, the kind who says things like “He dances through the raindrops and never gets wet,“ with the Owen Wilson version of “Starsky & Hutch” and you will have a reasonable idea of how he comes across. He even manages to come across as a completely goofy oaf when doing nothing more than simply getting out of a car or saying “NASH OUT” on his radio. To give Klein a little bit of credit, I am going to assume that he realized right from the start that the entire project was gibberish and that the best way to approach it was simply to goof on it from start to finish. Mostly as a result of his efforts, “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” is so hilariously bad at times that it almost provides some form of genuine entertainment, though certainly not enough to justify even the price of a matinee ticket.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17519&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/27/09 16:53:17
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User Comments

12/22/13 Sugarfoot It's amazing how they managed to make a movie worse than the Van Damme flick. 1 stars
7/22/11 chris OF COURSE this movie is terrible 1 stars
11/13/10 Con Actually enjoyed this movie 4 stars
8/22/10 mr.mike Needed more violence and a better plot. 2 stars
11/23/09 Albert Valentin Very horrible. Should have been killed off during production 1 stars
3/21/09 james obrien why did they make this 2 stars
3/18/09 Terry Disgrace to Street Fighter. Got almost everything wrong about its history and characters. 1 stars
3/11/09 Brandon Allin Just terrible. Not recommended. 1 stars
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  27-Feb-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Jun-2009


  DVD: 30-Jun-2009

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