Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Movie Information

The Story: A young woman goes to Bangkok to avenge her father's kidnapping. The Lowdown: Simply terrible to a spectacular degree.
Score:

Genre: Video-Game Action
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak (Doom)
Starring: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood, Michael Clarke Duncan
Rated: PG-13

The original Street Fighter movie from 1994 is one of the great cautionary tales. This early attempt at transforming a video game into a film turned out to be Raul Julia’s last movie—and a more embarrassing swan song could scarcely be imagined. I’m sure it served as a great lesson to Julia, and it ought to serve as a warning to all actors that you never know what might be your last picture. With this in mind, I would strongly suggest that everyone involved in the making of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li look very carefully when crossing the street. Not only is this a strong early contender for worst film of the year, it could well be a candidate for the worst film ever made. Quite simply, this is nothing short of a triumph of bad writing, bad directing and bad acting. It survives for a while on unintentional hilarity, but even its value on that score ends long before its 96 minutes are up.

What we get this round is the story of a very Asian-looking little girl whose father, Xiang (Edmund Chen), is kidnapped by an inexplicable bad guy named Bison (Neal McDonough) with the aid of a bunch of inexplicable Asian martial-arts types and an even less explicable bulky black guy, Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan), who specializes in smashing furniture. The event so traumatizes the girl that she gets progressively less Asian-looking as she ages into other actresses. (She ends up being played by Kristin Kreuk (TV’s Smallville), who is half Chinese.) Then her mom dies of movie cancer. It’s bad news all around, I guess.

Things change when she receives a really badly mounted Chinese scroll that somehow leads her to go live on the streets of Bangkok so that some martial-arts master named Gen (Robin Shou, Death Race) will find her. He does and then proceeds to teach her how to keep from landing face-first on a table saw. All this is going to allow her to revenge herself on Bison. Meanwhile, Bison’s activities as a crime lord (notably beheading all his associates) have drawn the attention of Detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood, Pathfinder) and Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein, American Pie). Ah, but it matters not, because Bison buffaloes the Thai government into not interfering with his nefarious real-estate scheme (yes, it’s one of those plots).

All that’s as much as you need to know about the plot—maybe more. None of this will actually help, simply because nothing could unravel the story or the bizarre collection of cosmic God-awful-ery packed into this movie. For starters, the film appears to believe that accents are genetically transmitted, since Bison—orphaned in the slums of Bangkok as an infant by his Irish parents—affects a stage Irish accent throughout the film. Perhaps in some twisted way that explains why his daughter appears to speak Russian. (Yeah, her existence is supposed to be a surprise, but since it really doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, it hardly matters.) It’s all a mess any way you look at it.

And then there are the performances. Oh yes, there are the performances. Quite apart from McDonough’s “They’re after me Lucky Charms” Irish shtick (bizarre though it may be, it’s the only characterization his Bison has, apart from a variety of polka-dot neckties), the whole cast seems to be vying for worst acting cred. There’s a chance this was deliberate—surely, no one could have actually thought this movie was good. If you were playing a martial-arts guru with clearly visible tape holding your fake sideburns in place (such is the lot of Robin Shou), you might well attempt a performance worthy of such an indignity. Kristin Kreuk’s Chun-Li just seems baffled by the whole thing, which is certainly understandable.

In the end, however, it comes down to Chris Klein and Michael Clarke Duncan, who seem to be in a duel to see who can stink up the movie worse. Klein is the clear winner. His scruffy-bearded (really, the three-day-beard look should be restricted to guys who actually can grow a beard) Interpol agent is a wonder to behold. Think of a Keanu Reeves impression gone horribly, horribly wrong. No, that’s too kind. Think of the worst performances ever given by Reeves, Nicolas Cage and Cary Elwes combined. Multiply by 10 and you might get near the hysterically funny badness on display here. Every word, every gesture, every step Klein takes manages to hit just the wrong note in a way I never thought possible. I’d almost recommend seeing this film for the awesomeness of his performance, but as a gesture of kindness to his further embarrassment, I won’t. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and martial-arts action, and some sensuality.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

13 thoughts on “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

  1. Tonberry

    It’s been revealed of me, that I have a cruel sense of fun. I’ll admit whole heartly that when I watch a ‘bad’ movie, I do get a sense of glee from it. We’ve been lacking a number of good well written comedies, so for compensation, I’ll watch a ‘bad’ movie to get my fix of giggles.

    And this movie is hilarious!

    *Major Spoilers from here on out!*

    I love going to the movies, I love attempting to make movies, and I love talking about movies. Another form of entertainment that I also love, is video games. Growing up, there were the ‘Mortal Kombat’ kids, the ‘Tekken’ kids, and the ‘Virtua Fighter’ kids. I was a ‘Street Fighter’ kid. No other fighting game wasted away hours of my childhood than ‘Street Fighter.’ Well balanced, memorable characters, and just plain fun. Nothing out there could compete with ‘Street Fighter.’ Throwing Hadokens, Tiger Uppercuts, rapidly pushing punch to electrocute opponents; there are a great deal of awesome memories that come from playing the game.
    I was around seven years old when the first ‘Street Fighter’ movie came out. Of course I loved it at that age, it was a ‘Street Fighter’ movie, that was all that mattered. I even had the written novelization of the movie, which was confiscated when I brought it into school. I lived in Scotland at the time, and the movie was rated ’12,’ can’t corrupt a seven year old into thinking he’s a martial artist, now can we?
    At least the first ‘Street Fighter’ had more actual fighters from the game in it. It’s one of the movies big downfalls, but everyone from the original set of fighters made it into the movie. To a 7 year old, that is all that mattered.
    Looking at the trailer for ‘Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li’ I had an urge to vomit. Oh man, why is there guns? Why does Bison look like a stock broker? Where’s Ryu? Ken? Sagat? Blanka? E. Honda? Zangeif? Guile? This offended me more than the ‘Dragonball’ trailer, and that’s hard to top.
    One main issue is, you ask a gamer what they think of when ‘Street Fighter’ is mentioned, and 9 out of 10 times they think of it’s poster boy, Ryu. I even asked my Grandma, and her response was ‘Isn’t that the game where a guy throws a fireball?’ . His signature yell “Hadoken!” filled up Wal Marts across the nation in the nineties. From what I can remember about Chun Li, when you paused the game midway through her bicycle kick, you could see her underwear. She was a female character created for fan service.
    I knew this movie was going to suck. Then I read your review, and I grew excited. Contender for worst movie ever made? I had to see it. The trailers that played before hand were a great foretelling. That ‘Knowing’ one, ‘Fast and the Furious 4?5?’ a horror movie I thought was Amityville 3000 but was actually ‘The Haunting in Connecticut,’ and of course, ‘Dragonball: EVOLUTION!”
    Then I was thrown off guard when the movie started, it was fair enough. Just seemed like an average run of the mill kung fu movie. It’s quiet, there’s piano music, a small girl spends quality martial art time with her father. Nice, family sap.
    Then oh snap! Michael Clarke Duncan smashes through a window! And it’s on like Donkey Kong.
    First thing that I noticed was how awkward the fight choreography was. I, let me write this out, ‘laughed out loud,’ when Chun Li’s father lights his hand on fire, then lights a chain on fire, then I seriously can’t remember when that fire went out.
    Low and behold, our main villain M. Bison walks into the scene. I’m not that picky when it comes to adapting characters for a move and tweaking them so they fit well in the story, but M. Bison makes no sense. To be fair, in the games you don’t know about his origin, but I never thought he’d even be remotely Irish. He always growled in Japanese, so I thought of him as a Japanese weirdo dressed like a russian super hero. Goofy I know, but that is Bison. Not this boring business guy.
    Some silly stuff happens to advance the ‘plot’ but nothing will prepare you for ‘Charlie Nash’ (Chris Kline). He is everything you mentioned in your review to a tee! It is a mystery, of what Mr. Klines motivations were in taking on this role. Is it ‘razzie’ bait? Did he know the movie was going to be retarded, and just wanted the check (its been years since I’ve seen him in a movie)? I don’t know, but I do know he is fascinating on all the wrong levels. I eventually wanted him to come back on screen when it was off it. The should have retitled the whole movie around him, ‘Street Fighter: Nash Out!!!”
    Yet, its Chun Li’s story we’re stuck with, that offers nothing new for the kung fun revenge plot. I read an interview from the screenwriter explaining he wanted to do a ‘Batman Begins’ type story with the Street Fighter characters. Ok, fair enough, but your biggest failure, was trying to make a ‘Batman Begins’ out of ‘Street Fighter.’
    I know the games pretty well, I’ve played most of the variations, and there is a story if you choose to follow it, yet it’s only there to give life in the character you choose to play. ‘Street Fighter’ is about street fighting. Chun Li enters the tournament, to get revenge against Bison. This movie, has no street fighting tournament. They use guns for crying out loud, in half of the fights. It’s only briefly mentioned in the end “Oh you know, a tournament is going on, some fighter Ryu will be there.”
    That’s the movie I want to see, what millions of Street Fighter fans want to see. Why even make something that bares little resemblance to the games?
    Another problem, is going for a realistic approach. This is the movies greatest downfall. On one hand you’re attempting Batman’s gritty take, but at least Nolan was smart enough to know that if you’re going down this tight rope, you need to exclude as much ‘fantasy’ as possible. I can buy Chun Li being a martial artist, I cannot buy bicycle kicks and fireballs. Pick one or the other, it’s a mess to attempt both.
    Seeing a bad comedy, like the Disaster/Epic/Scary movies, fail because they try too hard to be funny. Even I can’t stomach those movies, ‘cruel sense of fun’ does have a limit. But if an action movie takes itself so deadly serious like this one, you get great comedy that is not intentional. You mentioned this in the review, but said it doesn’t hold up long after the 96 minute running time. I’d recommend that if anyone did want to see this for its ‘badness’ walk in fifteen minutes late. That should put you around the time Nash goes on screen; the lesbian dance; creating fireballs (I held myself back from screaming “Mines bigger than yours!); Bison ripping an infant from his wife to channel his good side; The cheap ‘clip art’ explosion after Balrog fires a rocket.
    This movies doesn’t make sense. I am almost tempted to get a copy when in its in the five dollar bin; invite friends over, and have a bad movie night with pizza and cheap beer. That’s all ‘Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li’ is really good for.
    I realize this comment is quite long, but I just want to add one more thing: What I would do if I were to make a ‘Street Fighter’ movie. This next part might be movie sacrilegious; it’d be in a Robert Altman style of having ensemble characters, mixed with the feel of a Tony Jaa movie. Subtle, with real kung fu, and not try to be anything greater than just that.

  2. Imajicka1

    I agree with everything Tonberry said except one thing. Chun Li wasn’t merely fan service. She was a full-fledged character on her own right. Capcom marketed her more than any of the other characters, with the exception of Ken and Ryu. No doubt those two are the stars. But Chun Li was the third hero, just one tier down. In comic books and anime, she is a major player in the story.
    Plus, in the right hands, her character kicked ass. Especially in later versions of the game, when they gave her a fireball of her own.
    With that in mind, I can see why they would try to make an origin story on her. The problem is that they had the wrong people make this movie. Everything about this movie screams “rush job.”

    The greatest remake in the past 10 years,for me, is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a movie adaptation of Tolkein’s novels. The adaptation worked because Peter Jackson had great love and respect for the material. Plus, he is also very competent. Although I haven’t seen this movie yet, I know that there was no love, no respect for this. That’s the main reason why this movie failed.
    Honestly, if someone ever does seriously make an Street Fighter movie, they should just make a hyped-up, super intense “Bloodsport” style movie based on a tournament. For an old martial arts movie, Bloodsport kicked ass.

    Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice Tonberry, that you have a Pug for an Avatar. Does that mean you play Final Fantasy? Because Final Fantasy rocks, and Pugs are just friggin’cool!

  3. Tonberry

    In the comic books and anime, she is a major player in the story

    Never bothered with the comic books, as for the anime, the show or movie? If its “Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie” that thing is dreadful. And doesn’t really help your argument about ‘fan service’ when you consider the Chun Li shower scene.

    It sounds as if you’re a fan though, so if you haven’t checked out “Street Fighter: The Later Years” on youtube, I highly recommend it. For something that is low budget, it represents as the best adaption of the series I’ve seen. Very well produced for it is, and has a great sense of humor.

    Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice Tonberry, that you have a Pug for an Avatar. Does that mean you play Final Fantasy? Because Final Fantasy rocks, and Pugs are just friggin’cool!

    Why, yes I play a Final Fantasy game every now and then. But I don’t quite get the ‘Pug’ for my avatar. Is that another name for a Tonberry? (Because my avatar is definitely a Tonberry.)

  4. Dread P. Roberts

    I don’t quite get the ‘Pug’ for my avatar. Is that another name for a Tonberry?

    According to Wikipedia:

    Tonberry(s) was/were originally called a “Pug” in its first video game appearance of “Final Fantasy V”. Tonberry was misnamed Dangleberry in the U.S. Playstation release of “Final Fantasy V”. Finally, ships are named after the beings in “Kingdom Hearts” and “FFXII”. : )

  5. Tonberry

    Well just shoot me for not playing the Japanese version of Final Fantasy V!

    I admit pwnage.

    ‘Dangleberry’… now that’s funny.

  6. CharlieGnash

    Why do I like watching this movie??

    I think Kristin was actually good in this, and hers was the only actually good performance for having bad writing. But if you’ve seen a Boll film in your life, this’ll seem like a masterpiece in comparison.

    I honestly don’t know why, but I like this movie.
    Not in the same way I like other movies, but also not in a sarcastic way. Maybe I like that it’s a better effort by a mile than the original, and there’s finally a live-action SF movie that’s adequately palatable.

    Plus, as you may have heard, the series isn’t ALL about Ryu and Ken. If the others didn’t have interesting stories, the series would suffer for it. I think the reason they said, “no Ryu or Ken etc.” is because they didn’t want to try and make too big a leap on their first try.

    I’m not saying it’s great, hell, I’m not even saying it’s good. I’m just saying that if you can, for a moment, let go of the Street Fighter fanboy inside of you and look at it as a light movie, it’s alright. Even enjoyable.

    I’m gonna go watch it again so I can yuk it up and say “That’s kinda cool” at my leisure.

    Irish Bison is HILARIOUS and RIDICULOUS, but not inexcusable. However the Nash/Maya scenes are incredibly hard to stomach. But you get over it.

    Don’t consider this as an attempt at a seriously great movie, or even a great game adaptation.
    Just watch it, and enjoy it if you can. Anybody who doesn’t follow SF religiously and has a sense of humor should see this thing at least once if they feel like coughin’ up the cash.

    If not, get a friend to pay for it.

    (feel free to waste your time flaming me, it’s hilarious to see how hard flamers try)

  7. Tonberry

    Maybe I like that it’s a better effort by a mile than the original, and there’s finally a live-action SF movie that’s adequately palatable.

    -100 degrees Farenheit, as oppose to -90 degree Farenheit, is still freakin cold.

    Plus, as you may have heard, the series isn’t ALL about Ryu and Ken. If the others didn’t have interesting stories, the series would suffer for it. I think the reason they said, “no Ryu or Ken etc.” is because they didn’t want to try and make too big a leap on their first try.

    You’ll have to excuse my lack of knowledge on Chun-Li’s ‘story’ in “Street Fighter 3 & 4,” too busy learning the parry system in 3, and haven’t played 4 yet (oh but I want to real bad.) But I do know that they stripped her motivation for this movie from “Street Fighter 2.” It’s simply a revenge story. How many times has this been played out? “My name is so and so, you killed my father, now you must die.” So they’re playing it safe, fine, but offers nothing new in any areas (ok, ripping a baby out to channel your good is unique, but that has nothing to do with Ms. Li.) I’d like to see something, y’know, different. But I freely admit, if they weren’t going to make a Ryu and Ken movie, then I’d rather see a Blanka one.

    I’m not saying it’s great, hell, I’m not even saying it’s good. I’m just saying that if you can, for a moment, let go of the Street Fighter fanboy inside of you and look at it as a light movie, it’s alright. Even enjoyable.

    That inner fanboy, only reached it’s boiling point after viewing the trailer. After that, I knew this had no chance of resembling “Street Fighter.” In a sense, I had to view this movie in two ways, as a “Street Fighter” fan boy, and as a someone who enjoys going to the movies. The fanboy side of me questioned why even make this movie at all? With this franchise, your targeted demographic is mostly for the fans, and they made something that doesn’t even look like “Street Fighter.” At least the first movie resembled the games with its characters (Red suit on Bison, Guile is dressed like Guile, etc….) It’s be like promoting a Hellboy movie without the Hellboy make up. So why go in the direction that they did?

    As for the side who enjoys movies a helluva lot; My main gripe, (besides the obvious bad directing, awful fight choreography, incoherent story, terrible writing) is the mixing of the fantasy and the realism. The second they started making fireballs, you’ve lost me. There is a point where you can suspend your disbelief but so much. One reason I thought “Speed Racer” worked so well, was because they knew the material, they knew it was going to be over the top, and they ran with it. I love how shameless that movie is. “Street Fighter” wants to pull you into some gritty action movie, but fireballs? C’mon.

    If there is one positive thing I can speak of when it comes to this movie, it’s that its awfulness entertained me more than “Watchmen” did. “Watchmen” never sparked any kind of excitement for me, while with “Chun-Li,” I rushed out of the movie when it ended to tell my friend just how bad it was. We had a good laugh.

    Don’t consider this as an attempt at a seriously great movie, or even a great game adaptation.

    I never went into this movie with high hopes that it’d even be remotely decent, I knew it was going to be bad. Hey if you enjoyed it, thats cool. I’m not going to ‘flame’ you for it, we’re all entitled to our own opinion. I enjoyed it too, but for the wrong reasons.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I’m not saying it’s great, hell, I’m not even saying it’s good. I’m just saying that if you can, for a moment, let go of the Street Fighter fanboy inside of you and look at it as a light movie, it’s alright.

    There is no Street Fighter fanboy inside of me (or even sitting in my lap, come to that), and, no, I still don’t think it’s alright.

  9. CharlieGnash

    @Ken, I just think that stating that this might be the worst film ever made is a little harsh. I could watch this, I cant watch Daredevil. Or Ghost Rider. Or even Fantastic 4. I’ve never even seen two of those to the end, they were such spectacles.
    And there’s tons more. I only got a third of the way through Bloodrayne thanks to its utter inability to even be so bad it’s funny. Somehow, it dug deeper beneath that into a trench of complete unenjoyability. Not trying to be hostile, by the way, just stating opinion.

    @Tonberry, thanks for listening. I totally agree on the fireballs, and the neck break was a sudden leap in an odd direction.

    I’m gonna go (enjoy?) Robin Shou’s confusing acting that makes me say “I need to hear that again.”

    Not saying SF doesn’t deserve better, and I wouldn’t watch this before The Dark Knight, but at least this was enjoyable in some fashion, as opposed to many bad movies I’ve seen.

    P.S., I liked Watchmen, but you’ll find no militant attitude with me on that.

    “This guy walks through the rain drops…”

  10. So was this suppose to be a prequel or sequel to Street Fighter with Van Damme? I watched it, but for the love of God I can’t even remember much about the movie. Maybe I’ll watch it again and have to set the alarm to wake me up in the middle of the movie.

    I have to say, Tonberry, you sure had a ton of stuff to write about piece of crap such as this…lol.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.