I spent countless hours in my youth playing various incarnations of the 'Street Fighter' game franchise. From the original, to the blockbuster second entry, including the Championship Edition, Super version with new fighters, and the Turbo and Hyper Fighting Editions, there was nary an installment that I didn't enjoy for the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) tweaks to the formula. For a 2D fighting game, the simplicity and ease of play, especially in multi-player modes, held infinite replay value.
I didn't mind learning each character's movesets. I didn't mind the character names being flipped around (more on that later). I didn't even mind lining up a year's worth of laundry money on the dash of an arcade machine to designate my turn. What I did mind was the abomination that was the original 'Street Fighter' movie, which opened the floodgates for a parade of awful screen adaptations of other games that had piggybacked on the success of the 'Stret Fighter' series.
Fast forward 15 years. 'Street Fighter IV' has hit the home console market with much hype, and to dampen the spirits of fans worldwide, another misguided abomination of a 'Street Fighter' film has arrived like a roundhouse to the face, reminding us all that we can't have our cake and eat it too.
'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li' follows (you guessed it) the first lady of video games, Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) herself, as she makes mince meat of the evil Shadaloo, led by Bison (nope, not M. Bison, Bison. Like the buffalo. For sake of convenience, let's give the letter a name, Marcos.). Seems "Marcos" (Neal McDonough) has been a busy boy, having kidnapped Chun-Li's father, slain his rival Shadaloo gang bosses, and spread a wave of crime through Bangkok, the first step of a nefarious, self centered plan.
Chun-Li isn't left alone to fight against the man who has caused the city to run amok with criminal activity. She is to be trained by Gen (Robin Shou) to harness her abilities from raw anger to controlled whoopass. Interpol officer Charlie Nash (a horribly cast Chris Klein) and detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) are also on the case to put "Marcos," and his evil corporation down for good. But, get this..."Marcos" isn't alone either, as his right hand man Balrog (the perfectly cast Michael Clarke Duncan) is there to do the dirty work, and when things get out of hand, the Shadaloo "insurance policy" assassin named Vega (Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas) comes in to wreak havoc. A showdown is coming...
OK, I have to say it, this is a mess! Sure, the games have been a bit garbled up from the get go as well, with the "boss villains" names all being switched due to a potential copyright infringement issue (let's just say naming a boxer M. Bison is a wee bit too close to Mike Tyson), but the names of the characters seem to be about the only thing that is consistent here.
Characters don't look the slightest but like their game counterparts, which was never a real issue in the first 'Street Fighter' film adaptation. Chun-Li never sports her famous attire, and only has her hair bunned in a single sequence. "Marcos" forgoes his evil red jumpsuit and cape for a more discrete, stylin' look, while Vega, poor Vega, got mangled beyond belief. No longer the pretty boy wearing the mask to protect his good looks, he has been reduced to an ugly one dimensional chump, lacking in both narcissism and the ever important "ominous feel" a villain of his caliber should possess. Hell, even his claw is on the wrong hand! Sure, the outfits in the game wouldn't make sense in real life, but it's evident that the film just doesn't give a rat's ass about the source material and its extensive history.
Fanboy decrying aside, there is much more wrong with this production. Logic never enters the picture, and its partner, coherency, is also absent. For example: In a sequence late in the film, Balrog performs a sneak attack, punching Gen from behind, before busting out his strap to try to finish the martial arts expert off. Why the hell didn't he just sneak up, blow his brains out, and be done with it? We're not exactly talking about an honorable man, here. Why can only Chun-Li stop Bis...I mean, "Marcos?" This is never explained. My theory is simple: it has something to do with her name being in the title of the film. This isn't 'Street Fighter: The Legend of Charlie Nash,' is it? That's right, it isn't...even though it should be.
The bad acting found in this film deserves a review of its own, but I'll keep it brief. Chris Klein. Yes, that's a full sentence, and a full thought, really, as his name is synonymous with poor goofball acting. His take on Nash is an absolute riot, a scene-stealer for all the wrong reasons, pulling you away from the rest of the movie. McDonough also provides a perplexing performance. You know his motivations in the film, yet you never believe them, partially due to the unconvincing acting (also due to the script). Kreuk is convincing in her role, possibly the only semi-decent acting in the film.
Sadly, the unintentional comedy of the first film adaptation is also missing, as this installment succeeds in taking itself seriously, ruining all camp value, and turning the film into just another run of the mill action flick. Bad acting does not equal comedy, sadly, otherwise there would have been comic gold to be found here. Sure, the dialogue is still awful, but there are no lines so bad that they become good again. As a whole, 'The Legend of Chun-Li' is a superior film to its predecessor, but that isn't saying much. Hollywood, take note. Fighting games should be just that. Games.
'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li' comes to Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1080P transfer in the 2.35:1 widescreen frame. A solid picture is the result, though there will be no commentator to pronounce "perfect!" at the end of this bout.
Skin tones are natural and appropriately varied. Backgrounds are deep, creating a believable three dimensional look. Colors in the Bangkok backdrop (especially the wide range of clothing styles) are vibrant. Contrast is sharp, blacks are respectable and never overbearing, while delineation is strong, with no detail lost in the shadows.
As said above, perfection is not to be found here. There's a smattering of digital noise that shows up from time to time, especially in darker shots, that can make skies, walls, and even roads have a bit of a blue pixelated dance. Grain levels are never too strong, but they don't stay consistent, with many shots sporting a sharp crystal clear aesthetic, while others have a bit of a muddied look. Lastly, I spotted some light halos from time to time, not enough to cry foul, but enough to make note of.
'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li's sound design is full and powerful, adjectives that cannot be used to describe the film itself. A word of warning: playing this disc will rock your socks off, and a will probably ellicit a few complaints from any neighbors within earshot.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is pretty powerful on this one. If you want to hear a film that fully utilizes the ever so important .1, this is it. LFE is an absolute monster, to the point that it should have been the villain of the film. It is everywhere. After a while, I half expected a mundane task like playing the piano to thump and thud its way across the room. Atmosphere has a roar, while any impact during a fight sequence will sport a bit of a shake. Funnily enough, when first entering a club scene, the first sequence that should have an obvious heavy bass presence, the bass is as calm as it gets in the film. The next song, though, will remind you of the sheer ferocity of the mix.
Dialogue is comprehensible for the most part, as the majority of the cringe inducing lines come through loud and clear. I say "for the most part," since there are times when the atmosphere can overwhelm the action...as in, every time there is atmosphere. There are a few subdued moments, much like the eye of a hurricane, thankfully giving everyone a slight rest before going back to the rattle, rattle, boom noises that define the sound mix. Gunfire is straight up beautiful, especially when bullets miss and hit metal structures, creating a loud popping ting. Motion effects can be quite powerful, and are very natural and realistic sounding. If the film itself were mixed a bit louder to counter the overwhelming bass presence, this would be a 5 star transfer easily, as it is truly a fantastic track. As is, it's too strong for its own good.
'The Legend of Chun-Li' comes to Blu-ray with a healthy assortment of extras, including:
For you, the day you sit down to 'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li' will be the least important day of your life. But for me... It was well, the same. Scratch that thought. The correct choice was made to reboot the series as a whole, but after this outing, any future incarnation of the series will need to start from the beginning, again, and work on washing not one, but two foul tastes out of our mouths. This Blu-ray is the epitome of the good disc, bad flick label, with great video, and ridiculously active audio, and a nice assortment of extras. Don't say you weren't warned!