Simply put, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is an abomination of film.
Let me ask you something: have you ever played a Street Fighter game? It was cheesy, right? Full of crazy characters and locations, right? The franchise was never especially realistic or gritty. It had a slightly stylized, cartoon-ish feel to it.
The Legend of Chun-Li is certainly nothing like that. It takes a some story cues from the games, labels a few characters with names familiar to those who have played Street Fighter titles, and that’s it. Tonally, it brings nothing from the games which bear its name.
So let me ask you another question: have you ever seen a “realistic” movie based on a wackier property? Of course you have, it was called The Dark Knight. Chun-Li comes off as a sad attempt at mimicking what that movie did. It takes a property that often times borders on the absurd, or is altogether impossible, and tries to give it a more real-world feel, but without the necessary talent.
The acting here is some of the poorest on record. Canadian Kristin Kreuk takes on the titular Chun-Li with all the passion of a humiliated arcade noob-let.
Kreuk is of half Chinese decent like the Chun-Li of the movie, but it’s entirely clear that, unlike her character, she did not grow up in Hong Kong. Even for me, a whitey-white dude who doesn’t speak a word of the language, it was clear she was hammering through her Chinese dialogue with sloppy abandon, entirely without correct pronunciation or accent.
Chun-Li’s father has been kidnapped by the nefarious M. Bison, and she wants to get him back. So the plot stammers on, with Chun-Li trying to get into a mystery organization of good guys by giving up her rich lifestyle and slumming it for awhile in Bangkok. Eventually, this team of spider-tattooed supermen (or is that Spider-Men?) take her in, train her in the art of Hadouken, and then send her off to deal with her arch nemesis.
Kreuk is joined by Neal McDonough, playing a version of M. Bison descended from Irish missionaries on a quest to be the world’s most evil business man. He’s managed to use the awesome power of magic to pass the remaining goodness of his soul to his daughter, thus making him utterly without conscience. I think he transferred his acting abilities along with it. The Bison character is as preposterously evil and scheming as his live action counterpart in the original, much funnier, Street Fighter film. The difference here being, of course, that this movie is supposed to be “gritty” and “real.” Instead of hamming it up like Raul Julia, McDonough is just… boring.
The high point of the film comes when Chun-Li is also captured by Bison, and she finally gets to see her father again. It turns out dad’s been working for Bison as a slave to ensure his daughter’s safety. It’s something important too, using computers! Bison explains to Chun-Li that her father has been the “milk” of his organization, but his scheme is coming together, and he figures he doesn’t really need the guy any more, or maybe he just feels like being dramatic, it’s not really clear. Bison goes on to exclaim: “but even milk… has an expiration date,” and breaks daddy’s neck. It’s the only part of the movie insane enough to be funny.
The action is, perhaps, the laziest I’ve ever seen. Chun-Li kicks a little, but the camera work is such that no sense of intensity is conveyed. Balrog is around and on Bison’s side. He’s huge, but he moves like a zombie and fails to come off as a threatening foe. Hilariously, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas takes a turn at acting in this movie as Bison’s henchman, Vega. He brings to the role all of the charm a hack group’s fourth stringer can muster. His grunting delivery is as uninteresting as everything else here.
Ultimately, The Legend of Chun-Li is a disappointment for both failing to deliver on what it seeks to achieve as a realistic film, and for being so dull for the sake of trying to achieve that goal that it also lacks any appeal as crazy schlock.