“You killed my—“
“Yes, yes, I killed your father. What is it with you women? I killed my father and you don’t hear me complaining about it.”
— Chun-Li and M. Bison from the Street Fighter animated series.
Years ago, I went and saw Street Fighter: The Movie in theaters. It was, as we all know, a bad movie. It’s infamous for being a bad movie. I hated it. As time went on, I learned to forgive it and even enjoy it for its ridiculousness. More than that, I understood the movie.
At least, I understood why it came to be. Street Fighter II was all the rage and a movie was a natural follow up. With so many characters to choose from, the best they could do was create a GI Joe setting where the then-most popular character in the US leads his fellow good guys against the main villain and his cronies. It was there to sell action figures. It was stupid, but I understand why it was.
Last night I watched Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Most fighting games have the habit of having a crappy first attempt and a beautiful second attempt. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Fatal Fury, Guilty Gear, the Marvel games and so on. By all means, it should be the same with the movies, considering what a turkey the first movie was. They HAD to improve. The studio pressure was lessened this time. We didn’t need Guile and his kung-fu commandos taking on M. Bison’s armies. They were free to tell a more fitting story. They were allowed to do better! They WOULD do better!
The real question isn’t whether or not Legend of Chun-Li is worse than the first Street Fighter movie. Because it really is. It really, really is. The real question is whether Legend of Chun-Li is worse than the Happening. I honestly can’t figure out a good answer for that right now. It’s that close. It’s definitely worse than Mortal Kombat: Annihilation if that means anything to you.
The movie starts out with Chun-Li as a little girl, playing the piano under her father’s guidance. Piano playing leads to learning how to do martial arts stuff. She grows up, becoming less and less Asian by the year. At this point, we don’t have much reason to hate on the movie yet and it’s like the movie itself knows this. And so, for just a couple minutes, the movie makes the attempt to win us over by being completely rad. There’s a fight scene between Chun-Li’s father and some bad guys led by Balrog. I won’t lie, it’s actually kind of good. Even with her father randomly tossing a can of soup into Balrog’s hand.
Everything comes to a screeching halt as young Chun-Li runs down the stairs to see her father fighting for his life. She still goes down there to ask what’s happening instead of doing the smart thing and hiding. M. Bison walks out and allows her to live for reasons that are surprisingly somewhat sound for a competent villain. He steals away Chun-Li’s father and rides off into the night.
You might be thinking that this is some kind of setup for a fighting tournament or something like that. After all, this is Street Fighter. You know. A videogame about street fighting in a fighting tournament. Yeah, none of that happens.
Chun-Li grows up in Hong Kong and continues to rock the piano recitals. A scroll is delivered to her and she goes on a quest to discover what it’s all about. She ends up in an antique shop by chance and finds out that she needs to go to Bangkok to train under Master Gen. This scene is hilarious for having her do a flashback to something that happened THIRTY SECONDS AGO! She goes to Bangkok because why not?
In both Hong Kong and Thailand, everybody just speaks whatever they feel like in each scene. English? Chinese? Depends on what mood you’re in, I guess.
Let’s talk about those characters represented from the videogames.
CHUN-LI (Kristin Kreuk)
Chun-Li isn’t my favorite character, but at least she has some stuff working for her. Like, for instance, her vendetta over her murdered father. Little does she know that her father is alive and well, only imprisoned by Bison to do his dirty work, businesswise. If he doesn’t comply, Bison will go after Chun-Li.
Chun-Li is a character known for her definition and, yes, her thighs. Kreuk supplies neither. As a leading lady, she just isn’t all that attractive. She gets a scene later in the movie where she’s in a bathtub but damned if I can get excited over it. She’s just so uninteresting.
The one scene that I’m sure will be remembered as the big joke of the movie is the club sequence. This is where you can tell that it isn’t just a bad movie, but a terrible movie. Bison has a female assistant who hangs out at this one happening nightclub. Chun-Li meets up with her there and proceeds to seduce her with dancing and wearing an unflattering blue dress. It works and it leads the two of them into a bathroom where Chun-Li proceeds to beat her up and torture her. That woman’s bodyguards are extra useless, not just for failing at their jobs, but for not recognizing Chun-Li.
This leads into Chun-Li fighting a bunch of armed bodyguards by swinging around stripper poles. I’m sorry if any of this sounds awesome because believe me, it is not. It’s like the unholy offspring of the Daredevil playground fight and the Spider-Man 3 jazz sequence. Thinking about it, the movie reminds me of a very poor man’s Daredevil. Just in the way it’s shot and the way the action goes. I haven’t seen Elektra, but I asked around and yes, Legend of Chun-Li is worse than Elektra.
M. BISON (Neal McDonough)
For years, fans have wondered what the American version of M. Bison’s name was short for. Maxim Bison? Miguel Bison? Mariachi Bison? Finally, I know the answer. According to this movie, it’s Mc Bison. Yes, Bison seems to have the luck of the Irish in him, though I’m disappointed that he never lets loose with his Psych O’Power. Strong enough for a megalomaniac, but I like it too! He’s magically malicious! If you join his evil organization, you get to kill the English. Excellent!
I can keep going if you want.
M. Bison, the big villain of most of the games, is reimagined to the point that he looks nothing like the red-capped, big-jawed, sinister being we’re familiar with. Nah, instead he’s a short, blond man in a suit with a goatee. Jeez. At least when the first movie strayed away from the original designs they at least kept some similarities.
Bison runs Shadolau. That isn’t me making a typo. That’s how they pronounce it. Much like Raul Julia’s version, he too adores his set of toy buildings as he plots to take over Bankok. Why is he such a jerk? Well, it’s explained later via flashback.
When Bison was a baby, he was abandoned in Bangkok by his Irish missionary parents. Amazing how he kept his Irish accent all those years. Must be the Psycho Power. Then he grew up to be a jerk. He took part in a dark ritual to remove his conscience by murdering his pregnant wife and pulling out his baby daughter through the stomach. Wow, they’re almost sticking to obscure canon for once. That’s impressive.
Hey, here’s a question. In the first Street Fighter movie, Guile threatens to kick M. Bison’s ass so hard that the next Bison wannabe is gonna feel it. So… did Neal McDonough feel it? I wonder.
BALROG (Michael Clarke Duncan)
Duncan can pick some steaming movies to be in, but at least the guy always makes the best of things. He comes across as the only actor to at least try to be entertaining. He never does wear boxing gloves or anything, but he does punch a heavy bag for a bit. That good enough?
He works as Bison’s second-hand man. Other than that, he doesn’t do all that much. There is a scene with him talking on an escalator that’s pretty funny to watch just because even he can’t keep the dialogue from being a boring mess.
Another thing that makes me laugh is how early on, when he’s fighting Chun-Li’s dad, he grabs him, picks him up and holds him down on a table. This looks exactly like a commercial I always used to see on Comedy Central late at night for the Underground Comedy Movie where Duncan plays a giant, gay virgin. He does the same attack to another guy before stopping and saying that he’s waiting for the right man. Maybe I’m being too obscure on this.
Oooh, you sure you guys want to do this? Vega was like the one guy the first movie got right. If you screw this up, it’ll look extra stupid. …Okay, if you say so.
Vega looks cool enough and has a neat mask here, but the guy only appears for about four minutes total. He gets two quick scenes and then a very dumb fight against Chun-Li. The way they have it set up, you think there’s going to be some kind of epic showdown between the two. After all, that was one of the cooler moments of the animated movie.
To be fair, it hits a point where you think the fight is really going somewhere. Then it ends. It’s incredibly anti-climactic and Vega never appears again.
CHARLIE NASH (Chris Klein)
Now we are talking.
Thinking back, when I originally saw American Pie, I figured we’d be seeing more from Klein in the future. Sure, he was never going to win an Oscar and maybe he’d never even appear in a great movie, but he’d probably be shoved into a bunch of leading roles for crap movies I’d be forced to see commercials for on a regular basis. That didn’t happen, natch. I forgot the guy even existed until finding out he was in this movie. It made me wonder, how come his career never did take off?
Then I had the honor of watching this man act in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Oh my God. Oh my fucking God. If you want a real reason to see this trainwreck, here you go. Chris Klein’s Charlie is a thing of absolute beauty. Everything he says. Every freaking thing he says. It’s all gold.
Every time he opened his trap I was in hysterics. Say what you will about Van Damme as Guile, at least he tried. You can’t fault the guy too much for having an accent. Klein, on the other hand, is something else. All of his lines are delivered like a 14-year-old trying to ham it up and act out every police movie cliché in front of a camcorder on the first take. I want to do it justice but I can’t. He’s the second coming of the “GARBAGE DAY!” guy from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.
He’s been on Bison’s trail for a while. He eventually teams up with Chun-Li late in the movie. I seem to recall a sequence where he gets involved in a shootout, armed only with a handgun. Despite being outnumbered by a bunch of armored and better-armed bad guys, he still stands in front with absolutely no cover to shoot a handful of them dead and run off in one piece.
GEN (Robin Shou)
Liu Kang and Gen are one in the same? No way! Now that I think of it, Gen sort of has a bicycle kick move in the games.
Gen’s job in the movie is to stalk Chun-Li for the greater good and never die when he’s supposed to. As the story goes here, he grew up with Bison and was a member of Shadolau. He got sick of being evil and decided to start a martial arts revolution thing against Bison, which involved getting a spider web tattooed on his hand as a gang insignia.
Much like Bison, he looks absolutely nothing like his videogame counterpart, especially considering he appears to be half that character’s age. He also teaches Chun-Li how to toss fireballs, which is something no version of Gen has ever done. The fireballs here look a bit ridiculous. Remember that Foo Fighters video for “I’ll Stick Around” when they have that weird blobby tentacle thing flying around the set for no reason? It looks just like that.
Despite the fireball thing, he’s a pretty lousy teacher. There’s one scene where he puts Chun-Li in a blindfold and tries to murder her with a buzz saw and a sword, only for her to survive against million-to-one odds. It isn’t like they’ve been training for months or anything. He just said, “Hey, put this blindfold on,” and tried to kill her.
There are like four parts in the movie where they easily could have killed Gen and would have in a normal narrative, but he survives for the hell of it. Like a scene where he fights Bison and gets beaten. Bison kicks him in the stomach, they hold the position for about three seconds and then Gen just goes flying back across the room and into a table. Bison simply walks off, only to fight Gen again two minutes later. Finish the job, you moron!
But the best is how Gen fights against some Shadolau guys in his home while Chun-Li is off getting groceries. Balrog, several blocks away, pulls out a rocket launcher and blows up Gen’s place. Days later, Chun-Li returns to the scene to find that not only is Gen still alive, but a lot of stuff is STILL on fire! And I’m not talking about the building itself. I mean like metal debris lying around has been on fire since the incident.
CRIMSON VIPER (Moon Bloodgood)
I mean, I guess it’s Crimson Viper. After all, this movie was created to come out in time for Street Fighter IV, which has her as one of the main characters. Crimson Viper’s real name is supposed to be Maya and this character’s name is Maya Sunee. The characters sort of line up.
Maya investigates the deaths of some high-ranking Bankok criminals at the hands of Vega. This leads to her partnering up with Interpol’s Charlie Nash. Other than that, she has no actual role in the movie. Sure, she gets plenty of screentime, but it’s only to make out with Charlie and make him say such gems as, “I love my job!”
ROSE (Elizaveta Kiryukhina)
There’s this big subplot about how Bison’s waiting for a shipment to arrive, holding something called the White Rose. As it turns out, it’s really Rose, his Russian daughter grown up after being torn out of her mother’s womb. She’s also where all of Bison’s goodness ended up, so he aims to protect her at any cost. She doesn’t do anything at all, other than speak Russian and say stuff like, “Father? What is going on? I am so confused!”
Then Charlie kidnaps Rose away from her father’s stronghold and makes her watch Chun-Li murder Bison. Chun-Li tells Charlie to make sure that Rose lives a normal life. Well, yeah! I’m sure that’ll happen! You know, with all the trauma of seeing her father’s head snapped like a bottle cap. There’s a “Psycho Therapy!” joke in there, but I’m just going to move on.
In the end, Chun-Li goes back to playing the piano and Gen tells her about an upcoming fighting tournament. It would be a good way to recruit people to their cause, including a Japanese fighter named “Ryu… something”. Only Gen pronounces his name “Rye-oo”. Chun-Li declines because even Kristin Kreuk is smart enough not to be in the sequel.
If you’re going to see this movie, only do it for the sake of seeing an awful movie. Really. If you want to see a horrible, horrible piece of garbage, then you’re in the right place. I hate myself for putting myself through it, but at the same time I’m content that I got it past me. If anything, see it for Chris Klein’s performance. It reminds you that this movie took several months to film and yet during all that time, a lot of people still thought it was a good idea and kept moving forward.
Another videogame movie would have to try hard to top this mess. Something like…
“The King of Fighters movie will introduce a new science fiction spin into the setting established in the games’ universe by following the surviving members of three legendary fighting clans who are continually whisked away to other dimensions by an evil power. As the fighters enter each new world they battle that universe’s native defenders, while the force that brought them seeks to find a way to invade and infect our world.”
Thank God I paid for this movie in Bison Bucks.