By Robert Solomon
“Your father is the milk of my organization… but all milk has an expiration date.” — M. Bison.
Having not learned their lesson with the Jean-Claude Van Damme film based on their Street Fighter video game series, Capcom apparently thought that enough time had passed to give it another go. This time it is focused on Chun-Li, the undercover Chinese agent (who has legs that are as thick as her pixilated head). Guile and Ryu are nowhere to be seen.
It will take longer than 15 years to forget this wretched mess, a debacle of truly underwhelming proportions. It is very difficult to know where to begin, so let’s start with Chris Klein, who is most famous for his role in the American Pie movies.
Having been largely delegated to the straight-to-video slums since that series petered out, Klein apparently thought the challenge of his first role as an action hero would be a good one to resuscitate his career.
There are bad performances, and then there are bad performances that make you howl in disbelief. Surely, this actor has to know how bad his accent and delivery are. Surely, this actor must be creating a parody of the action hero by exaggerating his swagger beyond any reasonable plausibility (unless you are Brendan Frasier in George of the Jungle).
Sadly for Klein, he does not realize how terrible his performance is; for the audience, every line of dialogue spoken by Klein as Charlie Nash is comedy gold. Unfortunately, the only entertainment Street Fighter offers is of the unintentional variety.
If the film were not subtitled The Legend of Chun-Li, you might not have any idea that she is the star of the movie. However, you would start to get an idea from the amount of voice-over present as Chun-Li goes to Bangkok to hang around the slums, always in fashionable clothes and make-up as she talks of the difficulty of life on the streets. Perhaps Kristen Kreuk was cast for her ability to cry (something that Chun-Li does more than actually fight)—a sad devolution from the character in the video games who once intoned “I am the strongest woman in the world!” Kreuk was certainly not cast for her ability to fight, which is a big problem when your movie is based on a fighting game.
Perhaps the producers thought going with Andrzej Bartkowiak would supply needed credibility, or what passes as credibility in the low-budget action film. You can be forgiven for not recognizing the name, as he toiled for Joel Silver by directing urban crime films with Jet Li and an assortment of hip-hop stars. I had some genuine hope for this movie, believing that Cradle 2 The Grave is a schlock movie masterpiece, particularly when DMX shows up to growl. Sadly, without even this questionable charisma, it is revealed that Barkowiak has little left to offer. One can almost sympathize with the relative apathy that was applied to this production until one actually has to suffer its results.
There is one redeeming grace, at least relative to the half-hearted attempts to try to incorporate the Spinning Star Kick and other moves from the games. His name is Michael Clarke Duncan. Here is a man who knows when he is in an Oscar contender and when he is in a movie like The Scorpion King.
As Balrog, Duncan manages to actually look like he is having fun delivering the crummy dialogue. Perhaps Duncan saw it as a working vacation. But perhaps it is better not to think about what kinds of things Duncan was doing on vacation in Bangkok, because when the mind starts to wander to thoughts such as these only 10 minutes into the movie, the battle is already lost.
Finally, there is M. Bison, who delivers the line at the header of this review. It is one that will soon join the halls of hideous rejoinders from Z-Grade action pictures (along with every line spoken by Klein’s Nash). Expect several Internet memes to erupt from Klein’s performance…it is that bad. At the very least, Neal McDonough delivers his lines as Bison with a missionary’s zeal, which betrays that he knows just how awful they are.
One must enjoy the simple pleasures of a film such as this when compelled to finish it. You, the reader, fortunately have a choice. You are likely already looking to Watchmen to fulfill your geeky wish-fulfillment fantasies, and this is the correct course of action. Wait for the compilations of Klein’s lines on YouTube and save your precious money and time, because even seeing this movie for free would be too high a price.