Movies based on video games have become so reliably bad that it's more of a surprise when one is good.
Well ... none of them are good, but when one of them is only mediocre.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is no such pleasant surprise.
It's not that there were so many unanswered questions about Chun-Li in the Street Fighter video games, but that she is as good a character as any on which to base a movie. The 1994 Street Fighter film chose Guile as its lead, since he was the character whom their star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, could most convincingly resemble (though he couldn't get the voice of an American soldier). Kristin Kreuk less resembles the game's Asian stereotype, but she seems a perfectly reasonable action heroine on whom to launch a franchise.
The film has a totally banal story, which would be fine because all it really needs to do is set up the fights. However, taking the action clichés so seriously seems condescending toward the audience, who know it's all been done before. Plus, it's inept at getting even the broad strokes right. It's not even bad in a fun way, like the Van Damme one was.
Chun-Li (Kreuk) takes to the streets of Bangkok to avenge her mother's death and rescue her kidnapped father from Bison (Neal McDonough). Bison is using his Shadaloo corporation for an evil plan, and he's kidnapped Chun-Li's dad. Meanwhile, cops Nash (Chris Klein) and Maya (Moon Bloodgood) team up to capture Bison while Chun-Li trains with Gen (Robin Shou) to learn how to make light balls and catch swords.
Every scene in which the film tries to explain more and more plot feels like even the actors don't know what they're talking about. Kreuk has just the right amount of gravitas to lend credibility to her role, but Klein can't deliver any of his macho tough-guy banter without sounding like a little boy playing pretend. There's not even a point where it feels like he's trying to spoof the genre. He really thinks an over-the-top grizzled voice is legitimate acting. Bison might be believable if he just admitted to being totally evil and stopped trying to explain his actions. There's just no fun to be had in any of this nonsense.
The fighting is completely second-rate, straight-to-video action choreography. Kreuk looks great doing the moves, but it's all the standards we see in every movie post-Matrix: triple kick, flip off the wall, etc. Even Chun-Li's signature moves don't hold a candle to Alias or Kill Bill.
Or maybe it's fantastic choreography. It would be impossible to tell through all the choppy cuts. Plus, it's all set to techno music, so the throbbing distracts your brain from the persistence of vision required to maintain the very illusion of film.
They give shout-outs to other memorable video-game characters. Michael Clarke Duncan is the beefiest actor they could have gotten to play Balrog, and Taboo handles Vega's mask and claw fine in his brief screen time. However, when they hint at a sequel to star Ryu, let's hope audiences reject that idea before Hollywood plunks any more quarters into this franchise.