DVD review: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chul-Li

Do you hate your life enuff?

Reviewed by “Nite”Pete Tutton:
when i saw that street fighter: the legend of chun li was going to be on cable i was immediately filled with both glee and terror. i was giddy at the prospect of writing a review of what has been called by many, the worst film of 2009, but i was also moderately afraid of having to sit through it.

you might think that this would serve as a perfect companion piece to my very first poptards review of the original street fighter film (http://www.poptardsgo.com/?p=43), but you’d be wrong. dead wrong. these 2 films are only related in so much as some of the characters have the same names. sure, chun li, bison, balrog, vega and sole new addition gen are all there, but it feels unrelated, at best a second cousin twice removed. with the exception of one additional sf character who is referenced by name at the end, these are the only sf characters in the film. balrog? yes, balrog. in the 90’s version, they went out of their way to make sure that every last character made it into the thing no matter how unnecessary. shit, even dhalsim made the cut and he’s a fucking indian high priest or something who channels the power of yoga. not that he does any of that in the film, but that’s my point. they made up a scientist character and called him dhalsim. this one takes it a step further. they had cast good ol’ kingpin himself, michael clark duncan as bison’s right hand man, and he’s black… so why not just call him balrog? done. is the character a boxer? *shrug.* does he have a triangular hairline? nope. is he black? yup. boom, balrog. while tonally, this film aspires to be more of a slick hong kong style actioner than its predecessor, that flaming turd of explosive mid 90’s excess, it basically amounts to a generic action flick with a couple of street fighter names pasted on to give it some semblance of an identity.

seeing as how this film is technically an origin film, it begins in the past with adorable little mini chun li as a child in her idyllic home in the suburbs of greater bangkok. her father is a sagely, rich, athletic, kind, loving, handsome uber-thai who teaches chun li the ways of the world and a thing or two about kicking people repeatedly in the face. in this version of the sf universe, chun li’s mother is white, which can be explained in one of two ways. either they cast a white actress after they had locked in kristen kreuk to play chun li, or they had written the mother as white into the script from the get-go because they had designed the role of chun li specifically for the biracial acting powerhouse that is kristen kreuk. i’m not a betting man, but the safe money is on the former. i would have cast the lovely and talented slai, but i’m just partial.

in any event, this obama generation poster family is inevitably broken apart because as we all know, that’s where superheroes come from. familial destruction and emotional upheaval. or at least that’s where batman came from. the family estate is overrun by bad guys and then out of nowhere, michael clark green mile deep voice duncan busts through a picture window like he’s the kool aid guy and starts beating up on mr chun li. after mr chun li is subdued, who should come strolling in but bison himself, portrayed by none other than the excellent neal mcdonough. I just finished rewatching him as buck compton in band of brothers and it seriously pained me to see him go from from top shelf stuff to plastic jug liquor like that. but it really has been almost 10 years, and besides minority report, he hasn’t had too many successes. I guess a man’s gotta eat.

bison turns out to be the leader of the shadaloo crime syndicate. n this version, shadaloo is pronounced shadalau for some reason (wasn’t it shadowlaw in the original game?). he’s ruthless and cunning but at least the writers cobbled together a reason for his boundless evilness. oh no, he’s not just evil for evil’s sake and i suppose i should thank the writers for this but the backstory is so silly, i have to thank them for a good chuckle as well. after being left to die in an orphanage, bison spends his youth as a thief in the streets of bangkok. somehow, he cleans up and manages to woo a comely white lass and get her all knocked up. he, like mr chun li, is not into asian women for some reason. hrm. he takes his pregnant wife to a mystical cave full of dark magic or something, lays her down and throws open her shirt. the director of photography made an executive decision to treat the audience to an extreme close up of some preggo cleave and belly, lingering on one seriously puckered anus of a belly button. again, hrm. harnessing the dark magic of the cave, bison is somehow able to transfer the goodness of his soul along with his pesky conscience into his as yet unborn baby, thereby rendering her completely pure and him completely eeeeevil! moohoohahaha! this procedure conveniently doubled as a DIY c-section so, bison could save on medical bills. good one bise!

but back to the legendary chun li. flash forward to the present where she is a concert pianist, receiving a mysterious scroll at a concert. after a few brushes with men with spider web tattoos, chun li stumbles into the store of mystical mysteries where mr. peltzer purchased gizmo and learns that she needs to seek out a man named gen and the order of the web for some reason. oh, and she also needs to leave behind everything she knows. this of course leads to a sequence of lana lang trying to channel oliver in the streets of bangkok complete with smudges on her face and rips in her clothes. there is shivering, begging for food and a voice over telling us all how hard life is in the streets. after battling some street toughs for picking on a helpless denizen of the slums, chun li passes out and is carried off into the night by a man with a spider web tattoo. where i come from, a spider web tat means you’ve done some jail time. i’m officially worried for chun li. but no, surprise, surprise, it’s gen.

gen turns out to be the stock yoda/pei wei/ducard archetype who coaches her up with some fortune cookie platitudes and tai chi moves. at one point, while demonstrating how to create an energy ball out of midichlorians or something, he’s moving around in a sandbox, making lines in the sand with his foot. after he blops out his energy ball, we pan back to reveal the shape he’s drawn in the sand. a yin yang. oh yes. a blacklight poster, pepsi logo yin yang. deep.

gen reveals to chun li that the order of the web fights for those who can’t defend themselves and that the primary threat to the good people of bangkok is the conscienceless bison. one of chun li’s first missions against bison is to track down his female counterpart cantana at a discotech. after spotting cantana scoping out some of the female talent on the dance floor, chun li does some mental math and deduces that cantana is from the isle of lesbos (it’s in greece, look it up). incidentally, the song pumping in the club happens to have all the cuss words muted out, guess they bought the disc at walmart. chun li then opts for the dance floor seduction /sneak attack technique and beats some answers out of cantana to learn what bison is up to. after bison learns that cantana spilled the beans on his eeeeeevil plans, he proceeds to tie her up and donkey punch the everliving shit out of her. what does this guy have against asian women?

outside the club, sits a pair of cops staking out the same woman that chun li is investigating. one of these interpol cops is played by moon bloodgoodwoodfoodhood, and the other by the truly remarkable chris klein. that’s right, oz from american pie mans up and portrays nash, a tough guy cop who’s apparently chased bison through 12 major cities on 5 continents or something. chris klein positively owns this movie. not in a good way, more like the way a careless driver owns his hit and run conviction and the subsequent guilt caused by killing an innocent man and devastating his family. he is glorious in this. that is, he would be if this were an intentional comedy. I can only hope there are characters in the upcoming mcgruber movie that are as funny as chris klein is in this role. he has this nostril flaring intensity that just charges every line he utters with a hysterical mix of severity and smarm.

later, on a moonlit stroll, chun li is ambushed by bison’s ‘insurance policy,’ vega, played by the ugly dude from the black eyed peas who isn’t will.i.am. allow me to share my thoughts on the black eyed peas, if their tour bus were to drive off a cliff, the real tragedy would be if there were empty seats. these two have a short little fight and chun li leaves him hanging by his feet over a rooftop and he is never seen again for the rest of the movie. she had no problem shooting a couple of bison’s goons in the club but she lets this guy live? i guess the producers told her to leave him alive for the sequel, but more on that later.

chun li is eventually apprehended by bison and she is brought to his honeycomb hideout where she learns that he has been holding her father captive making him do his dirty work just like dhalsim had done in the first sf movie. guess the writers watched that one and took some notes. bison proceeds to snap mr chun li’s neck in front of chun li but leaves her alive in a locked room with a couple of thugs tied upsidedown by her feet. would it just been too difficult to kill them both? did he break a nail? was the view on? had he just watched austin powers? in any case, she inevitably escapes, reunites with gen and plots her ultimate revenge. gen magically heals her wounds and continues her mitichlorian energy ball training with some syfy channel caliber special effects.

chun li, gen and nash team up, and with some help from the local fuzz, orchestrate a climactic bullet orgy at the shipyard. this sequence has everything, nash running out of a building just as it ’splodes, leaping into the air in slow mo and landing without a scratch, nash screaming go go go go go! nash radioing commands and finshing each sentence with “nash, out,” it’s cliché city and i am the deputy mayor! at one point, gen and balrog have a showdown which concludes with gen pulling a pipe out of the ceiling and freezing balrog to death with whatever was flowing through it. i guess instead of water, this cargo ship has liquid nitrogen in the plumbing and therefore the toilets. brrr!

the secret cargo bison has been waiting for turns out to be his inexplicably russian speaking daughter whom he magically bequeathed all his warm fuzzies back in the cave of mysterious darkness and wizardry. our heroes follow the reunited family back to bison manor for more fisticuffs. gen and bison fight and just as gen looks finished, who should zip line into the fray but our hero lana lang. we’re punching, we’re kicking, and for the finishing combo: chun li unleashes a midichlorian energy ball that knocks bison onto a ledge, followed by a leaping scissor neck fatality move with a twist that turns bison’s head all the way around while his body remains perfectly still. The money shot is of bison laying face down with his suit on backwards. somehow, chun li had managed to turn bison into the lost member of kriss kross. warm it up, indeed.

since no origin story would be worth its salt if it didn’t leave the door open for a sequel, sf: the legend of chun li mindlessly obliges. as chun li is having a happy reunion with the help back at her family estate, gen shows her a flyer for a ‘street fighter’ tournament. puzzled as i was for a brief moment, this was no meta in-joke inviting our hero to a video game tourney where she could play as herself, this was a flyer for an actual foot and fist fighting event, enter the dragon style. gen invites her to join him to see this fighter “ryu… something.” will there be an sequel to this delightful little art house gem? i don’t know, i’m too lazy to research it on the internet. but don’t let that stop you, if you want to see more, put on your detective hat, grab a magnifying glass and have at it!

I will stare your face off.

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2 Comments to “DVD review: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chul-Li”

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  1. “allow me to share my thoughts on the black eyed peas, if their tour bus were to drive off a cliff, the real tragedy would be if there were empty seats”- I spit out some of my lunch when I read that line. hilarious.

    I am so glad I didn’t watch this movie with you, the review is much more entertaining.

  2. Well I have to say I love the review. I, myself did not make it much further then Chun Li’s training. I commend your resilience. If you want to actually see something not worth watching watch the real life Dragonballs Movie. Terrible. Great job Nite Pete. I look forward to more shenanigans.

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