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  Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Starring: Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Michael Clark Duncan, Chris Klein

Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Produced by: Ashok Amritraj, Patrick Aiello
Written by: Justin Marks

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

 
     Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is the most stylistically literal adaptation of a videogame to date, and thatís a far better trait than one might expect. The action moves with the quickness of an A.D.D. kidís controller-stick and the exuberance of a cartoon, encapsulating the charm of its 1987 source and the accompanying sense of nostalgia for viewers of a certain age. (Iím too young to remember the first SF, as the title is lovingly abbreviated by fans, but I certainly played many of the sequels as a kid.) Whatís more: seeing real actors, let alone the giant Michael Clarke Duncan, move at such animated, schizophrenic speeds is a real hoot. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li may not nearly be as aesthetically accomplished or reference-laden as a Stephen Chow picture, but it captures the same sense of loony visual spirit.

     That said, the film is equally literal in its adaptation of the SF narrative, which means there isnít much of one. Stylistically involving as the movie may be, itís as unremarkable in terms of story as every other videogame adaptation, dreadful Resident Evil sequels included.  In fact, I had to consult the Internet Movie Database to remind myself of the premise just so I could write about it here, and I saw the movie only two days ago. But here goes nothing: Titular protagonist Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) is a half-Chinese prodigal pianist who in childhood witnessed her father abducted by Bison (Neil McDonough), a slumlord taking over Bangkok. Now a super-hot twentysomething, Chun-Li receives a mysterious scroll that tells her to head for Bangkok where she will fatefully meet Gen (Robin Shou). He will teach her the Order of the Web, which is essentially a mix of controlling force-field-looking energy for the good of humanity and fighting super awesomely. Or something like that. Did you guess what happens next? Thatís rightóChun-Li will use her new skills to enact justice and take down Bison once and for all!

     While I was amused by the general style of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, I realized when struggling to remember the plot that I also canít recall a single specific fight scene that doesnít involve the aforementioned Michael Clark Duncan. Duncan stands out as Bisonís lead henchman not because heís particularly good, but because heís 6í5Ē and African-American and in a movie thatís essentially about girl-power. That Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li took such an anomaly to leave a lasting impression does not suggest itís a particularly high-quality film, but I do remember it broadly entertaining me in the moment, a response I must not ignore given it fulfills the filmís primary goal of being disposable fun.

     The one part of the movie other than Duncan that will stick with me for awhile is Neil McDonoughís strange, hilarious attempt at an Irish accent. Itís explained in a short flashback that his character Bison is the ďson of Irish missionaries,Ē but the only thing the viewer thinks of when McDonough appears is how unnecessary and strange his accent is. (I donít remember whether Bison was Irish in the videogame or not.) Then again, I ultimately found McDonoughís dialect attempt one of the most amusing things about the movie; maybe the filmmakers figured amusement was reason enough for its existence. Given that Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is all about goofy, irrational entertainment, perhaps Bisonís dumbfounding speech is more integral to the movieís success than one might casually assume. As cotton-candy cinema, the film is hardly a failure. Itís not satisfying enough to merit an expensive night out at the movies, but one could do a whole lot worse in renting the Blu-Ray or catching it on HBO one lazy afternoon.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.2.2009

Screened on: 2.28.2009 at the Pacific Glendale 18 in Glendale, CA.

 

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is rated PG-13 and runs 97 minutes.


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