Film Review: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

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Yet another video game crashes and burns upon its translation to the big screen with this cinematic rendition of the venerable franchise. Hardly any better than the previous flop attempt starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" opened Friday with a minimum of fanfare.

Not being experienced with the game itself, I'll leave it to its fans to debate the many changes apparently made to the original characters. The film's plot revolves around the titular heroine (Kristin Kreuk), a young woman of uncommon martial arts skills. She's had to grow up on her own, as her father has been imprisoned for years by Bison (Neal McDonough), the diabolical leader of the jauntily named crime syndicate Shadaloo.

After some quick blindfolded training by martial arts master Gen (Robin Shou, who has some experience with this sort of thing, having appeared in "Mortal Kombat"), Chun-Li takes to the teeming streets of Bangkok to kick some bad-guy butt. Also on Bison's trail is Interpol cop Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) and a detective (Moon Bloodgood) who bares more on-the-job cleavage than a Hooters waitress.

Bison, the sort of philosophical villain prone to such aphorisms as "life is about choices" and "everyone has a price," has several underlings, including the massive Balrog (a buff Michael Clarke Duncan) and the talon-wielding assassin Vega (Taboo, moonlighting from the Black Eyed Peas).

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak ("Romeo Must Die") works hard to supply the appropriate grittiness, but other than a few reasonably well-staged fight sequences, the proceedings are dull and visually uninspired. Justin Marks' solemn screenplay lacks any trace of wit, with more than a few of its scenes -- like when Chun-Li's wounds are mystically healed in a matter of seconds -- eliciting snickers from the audience.

Although McDonough does the villainy thing well -- his steely blues eyes fit the bill perfectly, as also demonstrated on "Desperate Housewives" -- Kreuk never quite manages to convince as the kick-ass Chun-Li. Even worse is the weathered-looking Klein, straining so hard for macho effect that one begins to imagine him giggling uncontrollably between takes.
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