Friday, August 20, 2010

Horrible Non-Horror! Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li

As a girl who became a woman during the golden era of Sega Genesis, Capcom's Street Fighter game series is something of a landmark in my life. Sure, Ms. Pacman stepped outside the PacKitchen to fight some ghosties beside her hubby, but as a teenager, it was easier to identitfy with and aspire to the grace, strength, and beauty of one Chun Li.
Hence, one could color me quite excited to see a feature film based on my favorite video game character of all time (screw you Princess Daisy). If it had even one tenth the glee of 1994's Street Fighter (perhaps a candidate for a future Why I Love...  post) I'd be happier than a 13 year old boy with an unlimited supply of quarters at an arcade.

But expectation is something of my mortal enemy, and Andrzej Bartkowiak (the much heralded director of another video game turned head scratcher, Doom)‘s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is something of...well...the latest entry in Horrible Non-Horror! 
Quick Plot: Young piano prodigy Chun Li lives a charmed life in Hong Kong, practicing Beethoven and tai chi with her loving, well-connected businessman father. Everything changes for the melodramatic when M. Bison--Neal McDonough with a David Boreanz-like occasional Irish brogue--abducts Daddy Dearest to do his bidding. Chun Li, meanwhile, grows into the slightly Asian Kristen Kreuk, a Julliard trained pianist who for no real reason, instantly becomes a superheroine crime fighter in the streets of Bangkok.

I suppose the plotting is a little more sensical, especially as every main story point is narrated ever so specifically and art-ic-ul-ate-ly by the slow-reading Kreuk. In Thailand, Chun Li finds Gen, former partner to Bison and current street fighting sensai. As she trains, our tale gets diverted to most hilariously unbelievable detectives in the history of cinema: Chris "I Hate Fat Chicks" Klein and Moon "My Name Is Really Stupid" Bloodgood.

And here, dear readers, is where Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li becomes a Doll's House classic. Movie fans are hard on Keanu Reeves, which makes the fact that Klein seemed to model his Interpol agent on Ted “Theodore” Logan with a hangover rather fantastic. I dare even the most stoic Spartan warrior to get through this film without bursting into giggles just about every time Klein (call me Nash! Interpol!) opens his mouth, 80% of the time to say "I love this job." He's matched by Bloodgood (seriously)'s Maya, a skanky gangland security official with stripper hair and incredibly tight wardrobe that seems inconvenient when chasing ruthless criminals.

To make life even more interesting/ridiculous, M. Bison is given his own backstory: according to Gen, the Artist Formerly Played By a Dying Campy Raul Julia was an Irish orphan who grew up on the streets of Bangkock as a cruel thief, eventually taking a wife and going all Inside on her pregnant womb so as to transfer his conscience into his baby daughter. Said daughter grows up to be Russian and his one point of weakness. That is that.

Because the gods of bad cinema love me, we also get a few more exciting supporting players. Michael Clarke Duncan slums big time as Balrog, sad in that he really delivers no more punch than Grand L. Bush of the first Street Fighter film. In perhaps an homage to Kylie Minogue's awkward casting as Cammy, the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo (in all honesty, I didn't know who this was until IMDB gave me the hint) plays the masked and clawed Vega. 

Kreuk is surprisingly passable as Chun Li, believable in her action scenes and offensively Americanized in her not-that-Asianness (then again, even the 14-year-old me knew there was something odd about the Genesis version having strawberry blond hair). Overall, however, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is  frustratingly snobbish, especially once you hear the stunning levels of importance bestowed upon it in a cast and crew commentary. You get the sense that Bartkowiak decided to avoid any semblance that would remind modern viewers of the goofy charm of Steven de Souza’s 1994 version and as a result, ended up with a silly, slightly pretentious action film that simply isn’t good enough to wow anyone.
High Points
I won't fault some of the fight sequences, which are rather elegantly choreographed (sometimes)

Low Points
Well. You know. The movie.
Chris Klein is, and I say this with no hesitation whatsoever, a horrid horrid actor. And yet as Nash (! Interpol!), he’s rather fascinating to watch and hear. Just how bad CAN he get? It’s a question that’s enough to keep you watching the movie so I guess, fool’s gold star to him?

Lessons Learned
If your forehead is larger than Tyra Banks' after being stung by a bee, perhaps you should not sport such flat and greasy hair. It does your features no favors, honey
Perhaps nameless actor could learn something here: Living on the streets of Bangkok with no resources will ensure your mane stays gloriously shiny

Always pack a bottle of water when embarking on a stakeout. You might get thirsty
When staging a huge police ambush, bulletproof vests are optional and not encouraged if you think it might make your leatherwear less sexy
For an awful movie, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is a pretty packed DVD. Several featurettes are quite self-congratulating, and a commentary offers the magnanimous wisdom of the filmmakers in casing Kruek because they were looking for an actress with "an Asian feel." That being said, one shouldn't pay more than the price of an imitation Reeses Peanut Butter Cup to watch it. The movie is awful, but somewhat likably so. Somewhat. Not really. 

Nash. Out!


  1. Looks terrible. Will not check out.

    However, DOA also looks terrible, but it has hot chicks, so I've been meaning to check it out for years...

  2. This movie is every bit of bad as you claim. I watched about 40 min of it and had to turn it off. I salute you for getting through the entire thing.

  3. Kangas: We all have those plusses that excuse bad movies. For me, it's swords, killer dolls, or a certain percentage of cheese. For you, hot chicks.

    PoT: It's realllllly hard for me to turn off a film. Maybe I'm secretly convinced there could be some kind of secret message in the ending, I don't quite know. The last one I actively decided to terminate was Moscow Zero. I can let a lot go, but never boredom.

  4. The point I shut off during my first viewing was the BULLSCHMIDT "hot dancing" with female crime lord representative scene. Even as a guy, sorry Kruek, but it didn't even titulate me. That, and upon later viewing, the fights just felt rather... plain to me. But I do give you kudos for acknowledging that MCD was wasted as Balrog. (Seriously, in my eyes he was the BEST PART of the movie!) And Chris Klein's performance is a marvel of awesome terribleness.

  5. Ha, the 'hot dancing' was just plain adorable, especially since she's essentially wearing a mumu. Lesbians really dig mumus, or so I assume.

    Yeah, this is now two movies in a row that totally wasted a big burly black man (or BBB, as I like to call them in my totally non-racist ways). Piranha didn't really know what to do with Ving Rhames. Sad.

    I hope Klein won a Razzie. And then I hope he follows this performance with a sexy horror thriller costarring Elizabeth Berkley. It'd be awesome.

  6. I never got what anyone saw in Klein...he was actually pretty good in Election but outside of that, the dude is a dud. Movie sounds unsurprisingly terrible, however, I love Smallville and have a huge thing for Kreuk, so I will check it out at some point. Alone.

  7. He's fine in Election, just as Keanu Reeves was perfect in Parenthood and Bill & Ted's. The dude's just limited, but worst of all, really douchey about it.

    I think you'll kind of hate this film, but I feel like you of all people really need to see it to decide that. And you will indeed get a whole lot of Kreuk, who doesn't have much depth but looks pretty enough with side buns.

  8. Great site you have here! Happy i found it.

    Also about Street Fighter: This was hilariously awful. Chris Klein was a complete joke. "Nash Out!"

  9. Thanks Ty! Chris Klein...ugh. I'm almost amused enough by his awfulness to find him amusing, but he's still awful!