My notes on Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
’Yeah, an irate pole-dancer not happy with her tips sets off Armageddon …’
Filmmakers have been trying to make movies out of computer games since Super Mario Bros., and they’ve almost all been disasters – well, DOA was sort of fun – so it’s a mystery why the genre persists. Seriously, without computer game movies, there’d be no Paul W.S. Anderson or Uwe Boll, so why is the form allowed to endure? Andrzej Bartkowiak, who made Doom, here directs a second live-action American feature go-round with Capcom’s Street Fighter game, previously turned into a silly Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle (not to mention some Chinese films and Japanese animations). This is an attempt to be the Batman Begins of a single Street Fighter icon, going into the traumatic reasons why Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk, replacing Ming-Na Wen) is the lolicon ass-kickette players need her to be to whop the hell out of digitised opponents. As usual in Hollywood, it’s all down to Daddy issues – little Chun-Li is trained as a concert pianist and martial artist by her fond father (Edmund Chen) but she is bereft when he is kidnapped and put to work as a computer flunky by master-crook Bison (Neal McDonaugh). Mentored by the usual sensei type (Robin Shou) and in parallel with Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) and Bangkok cop Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood), Chun-Li sets out to avenge herself on Bison and thwart his scheme to buy up the Bangkok slum where he was raised (he’s the son of Irish missionaries, and retains their accent even though he was orphaned in infancy). The mcguffin is Bison’s conscience, which he transferred into his unborn daughter all the better to be a bastard, and there’s some mystic blather with balls of chi energy tossed around in fights.
The squirrel-cute Kreuk, Lana Lang on Smallville, narrows her eyes to look determined and spins about a bit, but isn’t remotely convincing in fights, and she’s set off in her own bubble of plot while the cops to the heavy spadework on the story – if there’s a hint of romance, it’s between Nash and Sunee, though Chun-Li flirts with Bison’s lesbian minion (Josie Ho) to lure her into the ladies’ room for a beat-down interrogation (as a punishment for losing, Bison uses the woman’s corpse as a punching bag). Michael Clarke Duncan and Taboo turn up as game-derived villains Balrog (big chuckling black man) and Vega (mask and claws) and get thumped without making an impression, leaving all the ham work to blazing-eyed McDonaugh in a role vacated by the late Raul Julia. The action scenes are nothing special these days, the plot see-saws between ridiculous and ordinary and no one seems to want to be here. It’s a toss-up as to whether this is more unmemorable than Blood The Last Vampire or Dragonball Evolution.