I’ve never played Street Fighter, and as a game I know next to nothing about it, so I can only approach this movie as a movie. I’ve heard gamers complaining about it, and several I know are completely insulted. But I have to say, if you know nothing about how it got to the screen in the first place, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li isn’t that bad.
Of course, she’s not much of a legend really, and not much of an actress either, but then none of the acting in this movie is top drawer. Most of the time, it’s barely sufficient to tell the tale of a young girl Chun Li (Kristin Kreuk) who lives an idyllic life with her American mother and Chinese father. He teaches her piano and Kung Fu while Mom beams beatifically from the terrace.
But we just know this isn’t going to last, and one night the family’s peaceful life is torn apart by thugs, led by someone called Bison (Neil McDonough) and his huge henchman Balrog (Michael Clark Duncan) whose other name appears also to be Bison, but that’s something to do with the game in Japan so I ignored it. These interlopers do the usual thing, smash up a very nice house, and then kidnap Dad.
After that Chun Li lives a pretty normal life by the look of it – well, she goes on playing piano anyway – until Mom dies and then she is propelled to go looking for her dad, who apparently has remained kidnapped all this time. Chun Li’s path of vengeance takes her to Bangkok where she turns into a haunted looking street kid trying to track down someone called Gen. But she has retained the Kung Fu skills dad taught her, beats up a few other street kids who are beating up another street kid – I think – then Gen finds her at last and takes her to a safe place. He could have turned up earlier, but mystical Kung Fu masters are a law unto themselves.
The rest proceeds pretty much as expected. Chun Li becomes a formidable Kung Fu killer, and hunts down her dad’s kidnappers as well as her dad. It all ends very badly for some, of course. All right, so it’s not the most cerebral entertainment to pass an hour or so, and the acting – well, let’s just say that Chris Klein as the dopey Interpol agent should never make another movie, and people like the deliriously named Moon Bloodgood should go back to flogging underwear or whatever they were doing previously.
In spite of that, The Legend of Chun Li is beautifully framed by cinematographer Geoff Boyle, elegantly directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, and the fight scenes are pretty good. Neil McDonough makes a suave villain of Bison, and Robin Shou is enjoyable as the Kung Fu master Gen. Curl up on a rainy evening with a box of popcorn and it won’t completely waste your time.