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.

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