I went into Legend of Chun-Li with trepidation. I knew it had a bad reputation (as nearly all these films do!) but at the same time I thought “Well, I’m sure it at least has some decent fight scenes to pass the time…” Somehow I was even wrong on that account. Unlike the games that inspired it, this film is devoid of interesting characters and exciting fighting. In other words… *sigh*. Let’s take a look at the first of four fighting game adaptation films in a row!
After her father is kidnapped and presumed dead at the hands of wealthy businessman M. Bison, Chun-Li soon finds her life up-ended. Several years later she receives a mysterious scroll that will lead her down the path of a fighter, and lead to her chance at revenge…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Liu Kang crosses over to Street Fighter! … Sort of?
The film isn’t offensively bad… is amazingly my best compliment to it. Boy does it have some SERIOUS flaws, but I think of some of the films that have made me genuinely angry or annoyed during their run time and this isn’t one of those. If it didn’t have the Street Fighter branding and character names it would be the sort of cheap film you’d half watch at 11pm because you can’t get to sleep. *sigh* This is hard to explain, but I think knowing how low-budget the film is makes me more forgiving, is what I’m saying.
Some of the performances aren’t too bad, particularly Neal McDonough as M. Bison, who is a great as a sneering evil boss character, (as we’ve seen in the Arrowverse!) even if his character bares ZERO resemblance to the one from the games. It’s the right kind of entertaining cheese, without going full-on scenery-chewing like the previous film M. Bison, even if that was in the long run more entertaining… Michael Clarke Duncan is a good Balrog, in that it’s your usual super-deep voice and laugh Michael Clarke Duncan performance, and the return of Robin “Liu Kang” Shou to this marathon as Gen was a good laugh, even if he’s still wooden as a blank and once again bares ZERO resemblance to the game character…
Hey look, it’s Chun-Li! What a legend… not a good legend mind you, but a legend.
The two major flaws of this film are the complete shredding of the source material, and the fight scenes. So yeah, basically the whole film, really…
The first point is the one that sticks out to me. Despite being focused on a military conflict and having Guile as the lead character (among many other problems) at least the original Street Fighter film actually had characters that looked vaguely and acted somewhat like the characters they were based on (well, most of them…) This film? Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) just wears normal clothes and never ties her hair up like the game character, previously mentioned M. Bison is literally just regular blonde-haired and goatee Neal McDonough in a plain grey suit, Gen is just a regular wise master but with long flowing black hair and no facial hair, and Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) is a medium-length black haired regular old cop-type. Now, I wasn’t expecting them to try and match the game Charlie’s hair, that would be impossible, but would it hurt to have him have blonde hair and maybe a pair of glasses? Couldn’t you at least dye Robin Shou’s hair grey? How about giving the Bison character at least a … red tie or SOMETHING that would make you think of the character he was supposed to be portraying.
Actually, speaking of Bison, he apparently took his pregnant wife to a cave and pulled his own child out of his wife’s belly to “put the last remnants of his conscience into the child” and become utterly remorseless. What the actual F-? The child turns out to be this universes version of Rose, who in the games had a counterpart power to Bison’s Psycho Power, but she certainly wasn’t Bison’s daughter he’d ripped out of his wife’s womb in a special cave. Couldn’t Bison just be a heartless businessman type, if you want to go that way rather than the crazy powerful dictator, anyway. It was bizarre.
If you stare at this picture of Vega for roughly two minutes, you’ll have seen more of him than you do in his whole fight sequence…
Now the second point: the fight scenes. What on Earth happened here? 90% of the fight scenes are one or two punches followed by someone falling through a wooden piece of furniture that happens to be nearby. I don’t know if there is a fight scene that lasts more than three or four minutes! Chun-Li fights Vega (played by “Taboo” of the Black Eyed Peas, apparently) who is built up as this big threat that Bison is calling in, but he slashes at Chun-Li’s hair once, proceeds to get his mask kicked off, Chun-Li lands on him and pins his arms down, and then we next see him handing off the edge of a roof via some wire. THAT WAS IT. If you’re going to do some stunt casting then at least get someone who is willing to actually appear in a fight scene.
Then we get the final showdown between Chun-Li and Bison on a peer. They exchange one or two brief hits before Bison punches her into some wooden scaffolding (of course!), then she gets up, kicks a bag of power onto Bison, blinding him, charges up what I guess was supposed to be the Kikoken energy blast and hits Bison with it, sending him off the edge of the peer to a platform below. Chun-Li then jumps high in the air, puts her legs around his head on the way down and twists it all the way round to kill him. Again, THAT WAS IT. It was barely five minutes and completely unsatisfying.
So yeah, the film is low on the fighting stakes, despite being called Street FIGHTER. There are other issues, like Chun-Li’s father is being kept alive, but then he’s brought in to face his daughter and then gets his neck snapped. By this point it was already Chun-Li out for revenge against Bison, so that whole subplot was pointless. Nash has a local partner in Detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood… which sounds far more made up than any name featured in the Street Fighter games!) but she can’t act for toffee and is made to look incompetent to Charlie at all times, and just because I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned it: Chun-Li actress Kristin Kreuk also can’t act very well and is extremely wooden, which is why it was funny to see her be trained by Robin Shou of all people…
” *Muffled voice* Hello Chun-Li, I’m your Dad! Ho-ho-ho! *muffled voice* You see that? It’s funny because he’s dead!” “I’m not dead…” “Oh right, sorry. It’ll be funny in a second.”
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li manages to prove something I never thought possible: The original Street Fighter movie wasn’t so bad after all… Okay, it’s still bad, but at least funny bad, this was just… cheap bad. Wooden acting, poor special effects and zero fight choreography, even Neal McDonough’s cheesy villainy can’t save this film from being poor, and an even worse adaptation of its source material than the first film… SOMEHOW.