Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

If you're like me, you've become irritated with the recent stream of cinematic mediocrity - with the exception of Babylon A.D. and Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedberg, we've been bereft of genuine, bona fide awfulness for months. In these turbulent times what America needs is sheer dogged incompetence from stem to stern, an appalling script delivered with third-rate direction filtered through barely sentient, mannequin-esque "actors." A true cinematic purging, a hideous pill to swallow so we can finally vomit up all the mediocrity we've been asked to stomach. Worry not, for Capcom and director Andrzej Bartkowiak are here to deliver all that and more, with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

In the film's, uh, rather liberal interpretation of the source material, Chun-Li is a concert pianist (?!) who abandons her career to live in the slums of Bangkok and train in martial arts, while M. Bison has become a corrupt blond businessman. Bison has kidnapped Chun-Li's father (for reasons that are literally never explained) and plans to buy up all the slums in Bangkok, displace / kill all the poor people, raze the buildings, and build expensive properties in their place to sell at high profits. Detective work ensues, and some gunfights. What, you wanted to see a fighting tournament in the Street Fighter movie? Well, tough luck, shithead!

Needless to say, this film's plot, dialogue, and characters go above and beyond the call of duty and actually make the writing in the Street Fighter II video game look like it was lovingly wrought by Shakespeare himself.

Kristin Kreuk's Chun-Li is impressive solely for proving that her weekly performances as Lana Lang in Smallville could, in fact, be worse. Instantly the worst leading performance of 2009, sleepy, glassy-eyed, and yawn-inducing, she has all the fire and energy of the guy ringing up your groceries at the checkout counter. Her thighs are as slender as my wrists, I don't buy that she could kick down a Jenga tower, and she looks about as threatening and able to beat you up as any given first grader.

And then there's American Pie's Chris Klein as Charlie Nash, the cop investigating Bison's operation, this movie's pièce de résistance. For all of you who thought Jeremy Irons' overacting in Dungeons & Dragons was disappointingly subtle, Chris Klein is here to save the day, furiously acting every scene, every line, every facial expression with one and one motivation only: "FUCK. YOU." And how! He sneers. He leers. He spouts horrible catchphrases with enthusiastic gusto like he thinks they're future classic lines. He even eats his noodles with visceral intensity. It's a thing of beauty, an instant classic terrible performance that devours the entire movie and lifts it from forgettably horrible to hilariously awful.

The training montages (oh yeah, Chun-Li has a generic Asian martial arts mentor, the fact that he lives through the movie is probably the one plot element that surprised me) are bland and generic. The cop scenes are incredibly jarring and feel like they're from a different, equally shitty movie. The action scenes are all boring as fuck, the one vaguely Street Fighter-esque sequence being Chun-Li's duel with Vega, which lasts all of forty seconds. No female ever even shows much cleavage, for Christ's sake. And if you think that any other main characters, music, settings, or iconography from the video game will be featured, are you in for a nasty surprise!

All in all, on the horrible movie scale, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li gets seven Van Helsings out of ten Dreamcatchers.

1 Star out of 5

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