Thursday, July 16, 2009

Street Fighting Girl

Polish director Andrezj Bartkowiak, whose specialty is making terrible action movies (DOOM, CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE) is perfectly suited for STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI, a knuckleheaded adaptation of the once-popular videogame. STREET FIGHTER was already made into a bad movie (sadly, the 1994 feature was the last for the fine actor Raul Julia), but I guess once wasn’t enough for Hollywood.

Chun-Li (SMALLVILLE’s comely Kristin Kreuk) is a concert pianist who saw ruthless blue-eyed gangster Bison (Neal McDonough) kidnap her wealthy father (Edmund Chen), when she was just a little girl. Somehow, though, she has photos of her adult self posing with her dad, which may be the sloppiest plothole I’ve ever seen.

She decides to go looking for her dad, which she can only do by wandering around Bangkok aimlessly until her contact Gen (Robin Shou) finds her. Gen, a former member of Bison’s organization gone straight, invites Chun-Li to join the Order of the Web, which is kind of his Justice League. He trains her in the martial arts and prepares her for battle against Bison and his chief henchman, the hulking Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan).

Meanwhile, Hong Kong cop Maya (Moon Bloodgood) and Interpol agent Nash (Chris Klein), in one of the most pointless parallel storylines in recent history, investigate Bison for the beheading deaths of his fellow gangsters. I’m not sure why Bartkowiak thought we wanted a bad LAW & ORDER episode dropped into our kung fu flick, but it sure helps drag down the level of acting in it.

Nobody is good in this movie. McDonough, who has done fine work in television (particularly BOOMTOWN), battles an inexplicable Irish accent. Duncan, of course, is not an actor, but rather a boulder. Kreuk is pallid (it sounds like her entire performance was looped), Bloodgood clumsy (she was equally poor as a cop on BURN NOTICE), and Klein delivers one of the worst performances ever given in a major Hollywood film. No kidding, I could play this role more convincingly and certainly more calmly than he does. Okay, so we aren’t watching STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI for its acting, but it isn’t too much to expect a little charm or charisma. This is one of the most colorless casts I’ve seen in awhile.

More egregious is the film’s relative lack of fight scenes. A movie based on STREET FIGHTER should have a lot more action than this one does. Writer Justin Marks falls in love with his plotting, constructing a painfully convoluted and senseless story that wastes the filmmakers’ time and ours. Chun-Li’s father’s kidnapping is the impetus for the plot, but we never find out who he is, where his money came from, or why Bison needed to hold him captive for twenty years (during which time, by the way, none of the characters but Chun-Li appears to age).

Fox picked up the negative, slapped its logo on it, dumped it into theaters, and eventually lavished a comprehensive DVD and Blu-ray release on it. They really shouldn’t have bothered. STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI is so lame, it even recycles the old let’s-pretend-to-make-out-so-the-bad-guys-won’t-know-we’re-staking-them-out trick.

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