Friday, March 13

Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Review

Well. I certainly took one for the team tonight. I could have gone and watched Watchmen. But NOOOOOOOO... I had to go and watch Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. I told myself, it's been a long week and I just want to turn my brain off with a fun but stupid action movie. Well, WRONG. This crapper isn't even much of an action movie. It's just plain stupid, for many reasons.

First off, let me give due respect to the much-flogged and ridiculed Streetfighter movie of Jean Claude Van-Damme and company. Today, we all see it as a hilarious camp-fest but with all it's flaws, it's freakin' fun. And back then, in the late 90s, believe it or not, it was actually pretty cool. It had that effect on you- you're a SF fan to the core, you watch it and you are freakin' amazed that they actually got so much from the game on the film- it was ridiculous, really, but damn fun. I remember picking out the signature moves they threw in- Cammy's Frankensteiner, Ryu's one Hadoken, Ken's Dragon Punch, Balrog's Charging Punch, Honda's Thousand Slaps... Guile's Freakin' Flash Kicks and Bison's silly flameless Psycho Crusher. It was fun and damn I enjoyed it then, and I still have a laugh- albeit a good-natured laugh- everytime I see the flick on cable today.

And now... Streetfighter: Legend of Chun-Li. A movie that has none of the campy charm, fan service fun, cool action or the level of sheer spectacle of the previous movie. It's just plain bad, people. So bad that probably people won't remember this crapper years from now (which is a good thing). It's so bad, it's in the league of the Double Dragon and Mario Brothers movie in the levels of game-to-movie bombs. Pretty much everything is wrong with this stinker, I am a bit at a loss of where to begin.

Legend of Chun-Li follows the titular heroine's 'origin' from her childhood, as a daughter of some rich, connected Chinese guy who practices wushu and kung fu in the garden. The childhood sequence drags for far too long, and for all that boring establishment we get an unnecessary action sequence with Balrog (Michael Clark-Duncan) bashing in to kidnap Chun's father on the orders of Bison (Neal McDonough), a blonde guy with an Irish accent, whom you know is Eeh-vil since when he moves and turns there's a properly sinister and Eeh-vil sound effect. Chun-Li sees her father getting taken away and vows revenge, right? Nope. She just goes on with her life and grows up into Kristin Kreuk. I guess that night wasn't that motivating. More dragging minutes go by. Yawn.

Chun-Li FINALLY gets off her piano-playing butt when a mysterious scroll (Chun-Li: This scroll... could it be a message..?") arrives and has her go on a sort of trip of discovery. NOTE: The freakin' version shown in the theater has NO SUBTITLES in the MANY scenes where they speak all Chinese or Thai, which is just stupid. Anyway, apparently the scroll tells Chun-Li that she must leave her old life behind and find some guy named Gen to find her true destiny. Man, what a very dense and easy-to-manipulate girl. Just send her a scroll and she's all over the place killing herself. Anyway...

She dismisses her servants and leaves her family home to go all Lonely Planet backpacking in Bangkok, and wastes quite a lot more dragging time trying to find the mysterious Gen. Meanwhile, we find out that Bison is planning something BIG. After taking total control of his Shadaloo organization, Bison is planning to TAKE OVER ALL OF BANGKOK'S SLUMS. Well, it's not exactly world domination, but it's early in his career, right? FEH. Once again, there's far too much of Bison scaring public officials to do him favors, forcing Chun's dad to work his connections and having ol' faithful Balrog go here and there as his private gopher.
Trying to find Bison is Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Kline) whose performance is indeed as BAD as they say. The guy is acting like a bad impression of Jim Carrey doing a bad Keanu Reeves action hero cliche skit for the whole movie. Backing Nash up is the sexy cop Maya (Moon Bloodgood) who is supposedly based on Crimson Viper (yeah, right).

Anyway, eventually Chun finds Gen (Robin Shou), who starts teaching her the way of The Force, via really bad CG fireballs. As they do, Chun sneaks out every so often to tangle with Shadaloo (which she finds out all about after reading two newspaper articles on the internet... man, you can find everything on the web but that's ridiculous) and beat up bad guys. She even tussles with Cantana, Bison's secretary/female aide in a pretty unnecessary lesbian mating dance that just comes out of nowhere (so apparently Cantana's sexual preferences were also common knowledge on the Internet) and is just another tacky nail in this film's coffin.

We learn that Bison was the orphaned son of Irish Missionaries (which shows that accents are ingrained in the genes) who grew up a thief in the streets of Bangkok and became the seemingly-invincible super crime boss he is today by killing his pregnant wife in some cave.

WHAT. THE. HELL. Raul Julia's M. Bison was way classier than this. My gosh. Let me say that I was willing to let a lot of things slide with 'Bison' in this film. I accepted that we wouldn't be seeing the military outfit, the metal shin guards or any of his fighting moves. But damn, we never really get a sense that this was going to become the fearsome M. Bison. Psycho power is reduced to 'having no conscience'? Man, ANYONE can do that. You don't even need to go to a weird cave in Thailand. Just be a politician here in Manila.

So everything just kinda-sorta-somehow works it's way to some kind of endgame. Chun-Li gets captured and reunited with Dad, sees Dad get killed by Bison, escapes and then participates in the final assault on Bison's lair with Nash and Gen.

Oh, and sometime before that, she beats up what is probably the most pathetically incompetent incarnation of Vega EVER (Taboo from Black-Eyed Peas) and Balrog apparently gets killed by Gen in a bad kinda-fight scene. All with Balrog never ever showing any sign that he was a boxer. Or that Vega was ever a graceful, deadly elite ninja-like assassin. No, they just get fragged, so basically Bison is all alone with some nameless, nothing guards in the film's action FINALE.

Finale? There's nothing really to the movie's wrap-up, just lots of silly brawling and bad wirework, some crap about Bison's daughter (who is supposed to be important in some way) and lots of sneaking and tumbling around. You know there's something wrong about the movie's 'action-packed' finale when the coolest guy onscreen isn't Chun-Li or Nash, but the lone SWAT guy backing them up. Un-freakin-believable.

Anyway, Chun-Li hits Bison with a Kikouken fireball and a neck snap, and it's over. So... why the hell was Bison so hard to take out in the first place? That was pretty easy. I mean, what made him special? Well, I guess we'll never know.

We then have a little mention of a 'Streetfighter' tournament and a guy named Ryu-something. Sequel? Do I smell sequel???

Oh by all that's holy NO.

I have to say, the one big sin of this Streetfighter movie is, well... it's NOT a Streetfighter movie. It's a revenge-drama flick with martial arts overtones, but not Streetfighter. All the appearing characters who are supposedly based on SF characters pretty much never measure up to the source material. Liberties be damned- if you're gonna make a movie entitled Streetfighter then work the the hell hard to get it to live up to that name. Make some freakin' effort to get the characters recognizable or at least having a faint shadow of who they are supposed to be.
Let me say this- Michael Clark-Duncan is, despite being a black guy, totally miscast (the guy in the Van Damme movie got the look and feel down perfect, in contrast, aside from the change that he was a good guy). Everyone is pretty much miscast, save for Robin Shou who could have at least had dressed like the 'real' Gen and had some of his fighting style.

But really, it's a movie about Chun-Li. WHY CAN'T THEY AT LEAST GET CHUN-LI TO KINDA-SORTA LOOK LIKE CHUN-LI??? I'll accept they can't use the blue outfit, the spiked bracelets, fine. But at least give her those trademark hair buns. The buns ARE Chun-Li. They're not impossible to do. They don't need prosthetics. They don't need CG. They're freakin' cutely-tied up hair. WHY THE HELL NOT?

Even the freakin Chun-Li action sequence from Jacky Chan's City Hunter is better than this whole movie. You could retitle this "The Schoolgirl" and it would probably work better. Or "Stand Up to Fight" if you wanna follow the style of the old Hong Kong action films of the 80s and 90s.

With all that, needless to say I didn't like this movie.

It's badly written, badly directed, badly shot and badly performed. There are no cool moments, no set-piece encounters to speak of worth remembering. Low production values are just another hit to a movie that is humorless and joyless, not fun, not enjoyable and frequently dragging. Action sequences are rarely good (mainly just the 'practice' scenes are kinda neat) and for the most part are clunky, ugly and just plain bad- the DOA movie kicks this one's butt at least in terms of fighting. You can just tell, there was no love for Streetfighter, no reverence or even respect for the material, in the makers of this film. I wonder just what the hell went into Capcom's minds when they allowed their property to be defaced or connected with this crap.

It would have been better if I said I didn't like this movie because it's been so long and I just am not that big a SF fan anymore. Or that the Van Damme movie is just so much better (it is, actually). Or that I am just a lot older and wiser now, so am immune to blind fanboy wonder when I see any film of a franchise I like taped on the cover. Nope... it's just that Streetfighter: Legend of Chun-Li is a very, very bad movie.

Wanna see Chun-Li done right? Watch the old Streetfighter II the Animated Movie. Or the Streetfighter: Ties that Bind anime loaded in with Streetfighter IV. Or Streetfighter The Later Years from College Humor. Just. Not. This.