Movie News & Reviews

'Street Fighter' doesn't pack a punch

It's time to throw down our vodka bottles, dump the ash out of ourshoes, and hustle off to church, for the Lord has clearly heard ourprayers: a new Street Fighter movie is upon us.

I've killed myself nine times waiting out the last two decades tofinally discover the story of kickmaster Chun Li's rise to infamy. Doyou know how much cloning yourself costs? Lots. And when you'retwelve years old and saving your allowance, it feels like ten times aslots. But it was just so frustrating! When Chun Li kicks, it lookslike her feet are on fire! How does she do that?

But I'm being a jerk. As Ratatouille taught us, good things cancome from anywhere, whether it's the original animatedTransformers movie, a hokey '70s space opera called StarWars, or a nine-time clone the size and shape of an elephant'sbathtub. Video game adaptations like Street Fighter: The Legend ofChun Li aren't doomed to suck. In this case, it just happens to.

Back when she was a child, Kristin Kreuk's dad was disappeared bynefarious crimelord Neal McDonough. In that time, Kreuk's led a normallife as a pianist; McDonough has gone on to consolidate hisstranglehold on the streets of Bangkok.

When Kreuk receives an ancient scroll, she learns McDonough's beenkeeping her dad captive all these years. She may be able to free him,but first she'll have to give up her cushy life, travel to the streetsof Bangkok, and wait to be found by Robin Shou, the leader of amysterious order devoted to defeating McDonough and his plan to leveland sell the slums of Bangkok.

There's nothing that livens up a bunch of boring old street fightingmore than political intrigue. Really, this could have worked — an adaptationof a brawler video game that doesn't involve an underground tournamentis an artistic revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since that guywith the incredibly pronounced brow discovered you could mash upplants and smear them on cave walls — but The Legend of Chun Lifumbles this chance at depth like Fumbly Joe Butterhands, the famousNFL player so bad at holding onto things that he doesn't actuallyexist.

Much of the legend of Chun Li, as it turns out, can only be toldthrough following the meathead adventures of two personality-freecops. Before Justin Marks' script dives headfirst into the thrillinginvestigation of McDonough's real estate fraud, it fails utterly tograb our attention by having Kreuk narrate the ins and outs of hereveryday life.

It occurs to me that I rail against narration all the time, but I havea pretty good reason for that: it's almost always bad. Listening to acharacter summarize their life story is like reading the back cover ofa novel. In Kreuk's case, it's like reading the aggressively blandfake diary she kept around so her parents wouldn't find the realone — the one that had any insight into her opinions, interests,emotions, or anything else that would have humanized her.

Then again, with the exception of McDonough's backstory, which is justplain good and crazy, nothing here escapes the feel of being liftedfrom a video game, from the unimaginative characters to Kreuk'straining montages, which contain so much fake Eastern wisdom theysound like excerpts from the Tao Te Hooey.

For a fairly epic story, director Andrzej Bartkowiak doesn't drum upmuch excitement. He's okay when it's just a few people whaling hell oneach other. When it comes to building the big struggle into somethingmore, acceptable choreography can't carry that weight.

Not-bad fights are about all The Legend of Chun Li has goingfor it. That is, unless you've got a big thing for weak acting,annoying plot holes, and sitting in a chair wishing you were somewhereelse.

That may make the movie sound worse than it is, but it turns outI don't care.

Grade: C-