Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Michael Clarke Duncan
Release date: February 27, 2009
With Street Fighter 4 already out in gaming consoles and catching fire once again, you knew it was only a matter of time before La-La Land would take another stab at the Street Fighter movie franchise. This time, the popular Capcom game takes the form of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.
The movie centers around Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk), the popular female character in the Street Fighter franchise. As a small child, Chun-Li spent most of her time honing her skills on the piano and learning martial arts from her father until one night when he is kidnapped right in front of her by the evil Bison (Neal McDonough) and his henchman Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and unable to stop it. Days become years, as Chun-Li grows up without her father but becomes a pianist, what he always hoped her to be. Still, she longs to find her father and a mysterious scroll that arrives on her doorstep may hold the key to his whereabouts. Leaving everything she knows behind her, she searches for her father, knowing her search will lead her to Bison once more.
Okay, I know what you are thinking: Is the movie good? Is it terrible? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the movie is not terrible. The bad news is that the movie is not good either. It really just toes the line of being mediocre and just bad.
First things first, I really think this version of Street Fighter is pretty decent. I have not seen the original in its entirety (but I get a chance to when I review the Blu-Ray version of the original film) but watching clips of the original was just painful to me. It is the only occasion where I think the writers tried too hard to make it look like the game itself, even at the cost of making the movie look silly. Thankfully, the writers of this film tried to keep the movie more grounded to reality.
Also, the film is more focused on one character instead of many. Gone is Ryu and Guile, and in comes M. Bison, Gen, and Chun-Li. Do not pout, Street Fighter fan. There are plenty of cameos from the game, including Nash, Vega, and even Bison’s daughter Rose which are scattered all over the film that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Now I must admit, when I first heard about the film and that Kreuk, best known as Lana Lang on TV’s Smallville, was going to play Chun-Li, I had my doubts. She certainly is not the first girl I thought would play the character. But then again, I do not know many women that could play the role and in all honesty, I am just glad the producers decided on having the character be played by an Asian woman rather than take the easy way out and just decide to let white actors play Asian characters (I’m talking about you Avatar and Dragonball!)
So does she deliver? She is a lot more athletic than I thought she could be. In many of the action sequences, it is clear that she did most of her own stunts, a pretty impressive feat for a girl of her size and stature. She is also not bad in the acting category either. There is always a fear that TV actors will not do so well on the big screen but this is not the case for Kreuk. She more than holds her own on the big screen. Plus, she is not too hard on the eyes, a good in thing my book.
The fight scenes, while not innovative, kept me entertained. I love how the action choreographers added in little bits of the characters’ fighting styles from the game into the movie. This means fans will be able to see variations of the moves from the game, ranging from Chun-Li’s fireball, spinning kick, and even Bison’s power punch (but minus the blue flame surrounding it). I only wish that there was more of it to go around. I mean, this is a movie about a fighting game so you would think that would be the main focus of the picture.
There are a few missteps in this movie, particularly with the casting. I am perfectly happy with the casting of Duncan as Balrog. He loves his role in the film and plays it with conviction and believability. I get the feeling that he is the type of guy who will only work on a movie he would watch and it shows by how much effort he puts into the role. The other actors just seem horribly miscast.
McDonough, who is known to play a bad guy in every movie he is in, doesn’t carry the look of M. Bison. I always pictured him as a strong imposing man that I would not want to mess with. McDonough, while he maintains a strong presence, he just does not put the fear in me. Plus, his accent was marginal at best, dropping in and out of the picture. I had no idea Bison even had an accent in the movie.
Also, what were the producers thinking when they hired the guy no one cares about in the Black Eye Peas (Taboo) to play Vega? First of all, he looks nothing like the character and clearly he was given the role because someone thought it would put more people in the seats or maybe he is a huge Street Fighter fan and always wanted to be in the movie. Well, if he is a fan, you would think he would object to the film blatantly miscasting a part just to appease some famous person.
There are also several nonessential characters in the movie, particularly Charlie Nash played by Chris Klein. Klein does his best impression of an impish Interpol agent and just comes off looking like any sleazy guy you meet at a bar. His side story with another agent played by Moon Bloodgood is totally unnecessary and at times, they look like idiots instead of trained professionals. In one scene, to hide their identities from Bison, they pretend to be lovers and make out. While doing this though, they miss Balrog going into another getaway car and end up following the wrong car. I like to see more characters from the Street Fighter universe but if they do not serve a purpose, they shouldn’t be there.
Overall, you can do a lot worse than Street Fighter. The casting is a bit odd and the writing is not that great but the action sequences, Street Fighter cameos, and Kreuk’s performance more than make up for the movie’s several missteps. If one does not assume that this movie will be the video game movie of all video game movies, they will come out of the theatres happily surprised.