Anyone who actually bothers to buy a ticket to Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li will no doubt do so with reasonably low expectations. You can only ask so much from this kind of movie and all it really needs to do in order to be successful is outlined in the title. It needs fighting. In the streets. Do that and though you may get terrible reviews, you can walk away with your head held high. Chun Li is so utterly inept, it’s incapable of even that. It’s a meandering, confused, and worst of all boring crime syndicate accounting which takes forever to unfold and does everything it can to avoid actual fighting.
When fighting can no longer be avoided, Chun Li cuts its big battles short. A fight scene between Chun Li and Vega for instance, is built up, and then over in thirty seconds. The boxer Balrog faces off against Gen… and is defeated in under a minute by a faulty steam pipe. It’s not going to surprise anyone to know that Street Fighter is no Oscar winner, and I have no desire to waste time ripping it for its lack of subtly or frequently shitty acting. But what’s so disheartening, and in a way infuriating, is that it can’t even deliver the barest of bare-knuckle guilty pleasures promised by its genre. What’s left? Nothing.
Well almost nothing. Kristin Kreuk perhaps, deserves at least a little credit. Unlike everyone else in the movie, she’s not terrible. She pulls off one or two halfway decent stunts and though her unnecessary, unending narration is pathetic, her in-scene acting is passable. Kreuk plays Chun-Li, a Hong Kong school girl whose father is taken from her at a young age. In response she grows up and decides to wander around Bangkok, in the belief that becoming homeless will somehow bring a mysterious figure named Gen to her. She doesn’t know why she’d want to meet this Gen, but that doesn’t stop her from pursuing him, since it’s in the script. Street Fighter is a movie of crummy conveniences, things happen because they have to not because they make any sense. When a character needs information on a secret crime syndicate, he simply walks up to a computer, punches the internet button, and there it is. No secret is safe from the internet! Want to find out about that secret shipment coming in? Walk up to any guy on the wharf, break his arm, and he’ll tell you everything you need to know.
With the help of Gen, Chun-Li becomes a super supreme Kung-Fu master. This process takes about 5 minutes and mostly involves pelting her with marbles. She beats up a lesbian at a club, and suddenly she’s Batman and Robin Hood all rolled into one. The city’s poor revere her, treat her like a hero, and stand ready to throw fruit at the bad guys whenever Chun-Li gets in trouble. I guess they’re homophobes. Their adoration is important, because later she’s shot in the back, and the crowds save her by wielding melons. Near death from the bullet wound in her side, Chun-Li is whisked away by her mentor, who saves her life by using magic to heal a scratch on her arm. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
While Chun Li wastes time accomplishing nothing, we’re forced to endure a dead end subplot involving an Interpol agent named Nash and his flirtations with a Bangkok police officer named Maya. Chris Klein plays Nash and not only can he not act, I'm pretty sure he was drunk most of the time. He also never figures out how to pronounce Chun-Li, which may be why he does so much sweating. Never has an actor been so inexplicably moist. The police subplot is tedious and pointless, and it’s only made worse by Klein’s acting. But at least it’s a break from the villain subplot, in which we watch the movie’s bad guy M. Bison threaten to build condos.
Now that Chun-Li is a super supreme kung fu master she can set out to stop Bison, the guy who took her father. She enlists the help of the police, and they all run around together murdering people for no clear reason. Don’t think this means there’s a lot of action, all the murdering is really confined to about two minutes. Mostly it’s a lot of talking about how they’re going to do it, Chun-Li staring into the camera and considering things carefully while elsewhere villains monologue to no one in particular. The movie culminates in Chun-Li helping the police keep Bison from reuniting with his beloved daughter. That’s right, they don’t try to stop him from bulldozing people’s homes or chopping off the heads of rival crime lords, that’s all just fine. But goddammit that man is not going to have a stable home life!
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is tiresome and brain dead, careless and ill considered. It delivers nothing, except a hackey, inconsistent crime plot which seems like someone once watched half of Kill Bill Volume 2 and then set out to write a fem-lead Batman movie based on the shittiest possible version of that. It’s difficult to believe, but this is actually worse than the 1994 Street Fighter movie, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Sure it was cheesy and silly and dumb as hell, but at least that Street Fighter movie was colorful and energetic, at least it tried. The 1994 version was ridiculous because it went too far, this Street Fighter doesn’t even try.