Sunday, March 22, 2009

Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li

Year: 2009
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Michael Clark Duncan, Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood

Isn't Kristin Kreuk amazing? She can play an all American girl who falls for Clark Kent in Smallville, play a Pakistani girl who gets involved in a forbidden romance with a Sikh man in Partition, and now she is a Chinese girl out to rescue her father from ruthless mobsters in Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li.

She's actually half Dutch and half Chinese, yet she has played different ethnic types from her own, until now. Thanks to her exotic looks, it seems she can look like anyone. Pretty neat huh? This time though, she gets to play an action heroine. Does she pull it off?

This film is based on the world famous Street Fighter video game, which I still remember playing to death back when I was still a schoolboy. It was the craze at the arcade then. Chun Li, the titular character, is but one of the many characters in the video game that has captivated millions of fans to this day.

So the film begins with Chun Li narrating her life story, of how she had wanted to be a concert pianist, but ended up spending time learning martial arts from her father as she grew up. One night, when she was 10 years old, a gang of criminals led by Bison (Neal McDonough) kidnapped her father. We then move to present day, where Chun Li, now grown up, plays the piano and looks after her ailing mother. When her mother eventually passes on, Chun Li begins a journey to find her father, by finding a man named Gen (Robin Shou). Gen turns out to be the leader of a group of rebels who pledge to help the weak by fighting Bison and his gang.

Meanwhile, an Interpol agent called Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) arrives in Bangkok to find Bison. He teams up with local cop Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) to track Bison, and they learn of his plan to take over the slums of Bangkok by removing all the major crime lords in the city.

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who has made a name for himself making action flicks by mixing Oriental elements with black gangsters (Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 The Grave), takes the helm here. And the usual quick cut, multiple camera style he utilised in his previous films is present here. But after a while, this method becomes less of a tool and more of a hindrance, as it gets harder to see who's kicking where since he cuts real quick before anyone can register the action.

But he does get some credit for authenticity. The streets of Bangkok were well filmed, and the locals well used to depict life on the streets there. However the feeling gets slightly spoilt by dressing Chun Li a little too well as she tries to adapt to the environment in Bangkok. What's with the short outfits and sneakers they made Kreuk wear? I think that would only make her look rich rather than blend with the crowd.

And what about Kreuk? Well, I'll have to admit I have a soft spot for her. I do like her a lot, despite being aware that her acting is just mediocre. As Lana Lang on Smallville, it's easy to relate to her. But as a Chinese speaking girl trying to find her dad and coping with the grief that comes with her journey? I can only say that she does an okay job. She does excel in the fight scenes, it definitely showcases a darker side of her. But Kreuk tends to overact when put in a dramatic scene, which is a pity since the dramatic scenes are the ones that should matter the most in highlighting her character.

Chris Klein.....good God this guy is awful. His acting was horrific! I mean, it's not the first time I've seen him in a film, but man was he terrible here. McDonough surely looks the part as chief bad guy Bison, but some of his lines are just laughable, like it was lifted out of the textbook for cheesy villain speeches. Michael Clark Duncan, Oscar nominee, somehow ends up doing a film that most people would consider B-grade. There's no John Coffey here, only the big brute muscleman ala The Kingpin, which is a waste of his talent. And what the hell is Taboo from The Black-Eyed Peas doing in here??? Playing Vega??? His screen time must have been under 5 minutes long. And the guy can't even look the part, much less fight like the character from the video game. Taboo is the biggest mistake of the entire film. Oh, and Robin Shou. His acting hasn't improved much from his Mortal Kombat days, I'm afraid.

So is there anything to salvage from a poorly cinematographed, badly acted film? Well, yes. The fight scenes aren't too shabby. Dion Lam, who helped choreographed the action in The Matrix sequels, does a decent job here. Some pretty neat moves from Kreuk are impressive to watch, and you'll get to see Chun Li's patented helicopter kick too.

But at the end of the day, this film is only average entertainment at best. I'd recommend it for fans of Kristin Kreuk who want to see her kick ass. If you want a stellar action film, try something else. (3/5)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're being waaay to kind by giving it a 3/5 rating. This was only the 2nd time in my entire cinema-going experience that I felt I wanted to leave before the film ends. Even the fight scenes were not great. Take a look at the Razzies (Golden Raspberry-- spoof of oscars)website, and they're already nominating it for the worst film award.


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