Disasterpiece! – STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI

(I’m test driving a new feature on the blog where I will watch and write about some of those truly terrible movies that go beyond the pale of awfulness, smash their way through offensiveness, and come out on the other side at greatness. It’s unclear how often I’ll be able to stomach these things, so it may not be an especially regular feature, but we’ll see how it goes)

In the last few years, video game narrative has rapidly evolved to a point where it’s feasible that a game could be on par with a film or novel in its delivery of thoughtful, emotional story, nuanced character development, and a basis for critical analysis. Such is the case with experimental games like Rockstar’s LA NOIRE or Quantic Dream’s HEAVY RAIN, but Capcom’s STREET FIGHTER series, which is nothing more than two onscreen fighters beating each other to a pulp, is hardly the stuff of compelling drama. Perhaps director Andrzej Bartkowiak should have stuck with the idea that if Van Damme can’t make a STREET FIGHTER film work (although he did deliver the most stirring film speech of all time in his attempt), no-one can. Luckily for connoisseurs of terrible cinema however, he gave it a shot, and blessed us with STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI.

There’s really little point in getting into plot specifics. Chun-Li’s (Kristin Kreuk) revenge story is so misguided and full of questions and holes that I’ve pretty much forgotten it already, so instead let’s look at what makes this film such staggeringly stupid fun. Kreuk is never believable as a real person, let alone a tough-as-nails martial artist, as she wanders doe-eyed through the streets of Bangkok searching for clues about her father’s disappearance, interacting with laughably simplistic and offensive Thai stereotypes. She acts like she’s dropped out of a mid-day soap opera, failing to fight, play piano (she’s some kind of virtuoso apparently), or even deliver dialogue convincingly. On the other side of the coin is Neal McDonough as chief baddie Bison, proving that even usually reliable character actors aren’t immune to this ridiculous film. The orphaned Bison allegedly grew up in the slums of Bangkok before sacrificing his wife whilst transferring his conscience to his newborn daughter (really?), so why McDonough drops in and out of an hilarious Irish accent is anyone’s guess. Also, it appears he has a penchant for suspending young women from the ceiling so he can beat the hell out of them. Never a comforting sign.

But all the woeful training montages, unappealing dance numbers, and atrocious expository dialogue are only appetizers for the true star of THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI. Had he ever displayed anything resembling acting talent in previous work, it might seem that Chris Klein was playing an elaborate joke with his performance as peacocking Interpol agent Charlie Nash, but, unfortunately for Klein, that evidence doesn’t exist. Apparently he’s just a terrible, terrible actor. His smug swagger is a sight to behold, whether spouting awkwardly inappropriate one-liners at his sexy partner (the absurdly named Moon Bloodgood), barking random tough-guy commands at various underlings, or blankly gazing at things with all the conviction of a blind person. He’s so bizarrely inept that his work alone elevates THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI to the hilarious heights of a true disasterpiece, and demands to be seen with a group of like-minded friends, several alcoholic or otherwise mind-altering substances, and a total absence of brain function.

Advertisements

Filling the Gaps: BARBARELLA – QUEEN OF THE GALAXY

Scouring the video store shelves in search of something interesting I feel like I should see often yields surprising results, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the surprise I got from BARBARELLA: QUEEN OF THE GALAXY. I had a vague idea of what it was (kitschy sci-fi cult classic was my understanding), but, to my initial delight (but eventual disappointment), I had more in store, but perhaps also much, much less.

BARBARELLA is a bizarre, psychedelic tale of the sexual awakening of the titular (no pun intended) character, played by an startlingly young and alluring Jane Fonda, a woman sent by the Government of the Republic of Earth to search for scientist Durand Durand. Durand, whose spacecraft disappeared somewhere near mysterious planet Tau Ceti, is the creator of the Positronic Ray, a weapon of unspeakable power which the Earth government wish to retrieve before it falls into unfriendly hands. After crash landing on the planet, Barbarella encounters various odd people and creatures, all of whom seem to exist in a primitive world of sexual liberation. 41st century society has moved on from archaic penetrative intercourse it seems, opting instead for a meditative melding of ‘psychocardiograms’ (think the virtual sex from DEMOLITION MAN, but less exciting), and Barbarella is initially appalled at the idea, yet after around 20 seconds of coercion from a creep in a bear suit, experiences the pleasures of the flesh for the first time. And so begins the erotic adventures of Barbarella, which include making love to a blind angel, being propositioned by a one-eyed dominatrix who may not be what she seems, and having her body literally played like an organ by the nefarious Durand Durand.

Unfortunately, it all sounds a little racier than it is. There’s plenty of innuendo and double entendre (one of the characters is named Dildano!), but really it’s not pushed far enough, and the film is a little tame. There are laughs to be had, and Fonda is fully committed to the campy lunacy of the script but BARBARELLA doesn’t really live up to its cult status. The spectacularly low-budget sets and effects, Fonda’s ever-changing and increasingly revealing outfits, and the fun and funky psychedelic lounge music throughout stand out as highlight, but it’s far from a good movie. Amazingly Fonda turned down both BONNIE AND CLYDE and ROSEMARY’S BABY to make this, so I guess you have to give her credit for the effort, and perhaps some chemical accompaniment would work in BARBARELLA’s favour (as I’m certain there was plenty on set). It’s the sort of film which you know you’re going to like or hate before even starting it, and I’m not surprised that it has its fans. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.