Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Blu-ray)
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 97 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Review Date: July 2, 2009
There’s nothing inherently bad about movies based on video games. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was a reasonably entertaining sub-Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure film, for example, and featured a plucky heroine who was a beautiful and believable badass. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, unfortunately, is a slow, repetitive martial arts origin story that fails to engage. Action fans looking for pure fight scenes with next to no story development may be in heaven, but the rest of us tired of the chop-socky stuff a few decades ago, and there’s nothing especially unusual or riveting about this latest incarnation. Yes, the actors give it their all, but only video game fanatics and fans of the stars need apply.
Piano prodigy Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) loses her father when he’s abducted in her youth by the evil Bison (Neal McDonough) and his muscular henchman Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). Over the years Bison uses Li’s father to help him gain control of the Shadaloo corporation, a front for organized crime based in Bangkok. Now, years later, she’s ready to find her father with the aid of a shadowy undercover team called the Order of the Web headed by martial arts master Gen (Robin Shou). With his help, she learns to control her anger and instead direct her passion for vengeance and justice toward her enemies making her an awesome fighting force. And it’s good that she is since the Interpol agents sent to track and bring down Bison include the well-meaning but mostly ineffectual Nash (Chris Klein) and Maya (Moon Bloodgood).
When you’re telling the origin story of a new film heroine, it’s important to establish a rapport from audience to leading character. The screenwriter Justin Marks has done well with a few touching scenes showing the father basking in his daughter’s musical abilities but also reveling in teaching her introductory martial arts poses and moves. Later, however, the heart of the story gets relegated far to the bottom of the priority list in favor of a series of repetitive martial arts combat sequences pitting our small but forceful heroine usually against gangs with multiple martial arts experts of their own. More impressive are a couple of one-on-one face offs between Li and Cantana (Josie Ho) in a nightclub washroom and, ultimately, Li in a standoff against arch enemy Bison. There’s aren’t any surprises along the way, just fight after fight with the same patented high flying kicks, sweeps, and lunges. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak luxuriates in the Thailand setting with the real locations that place the viewer directly into the midst of the action. But he isn’t able to deepen the emotional core of the story at all to match those fleeting early scenes. Action triumphs over dramatic art in a big way in this movie.
Kristin Kreuk shoulders the herculean task giving life and limb to a video game heroine, and while wiry on the surface as opposed to the game’s more muscular heroine, she gives a fine account of herself as the title character. Neal McDonough has the power and poise of a genuine threat (a flashback to the violent birth of his daughter viscerally shows us what he’s capable of) and makes a credible nemesis. Michael Clarke Duncan has an imposing physical presence, but in the hands of the wrong director, his line readings can come out stilted and forced (as they are here). Robin Shou makes the most of his few appearances as the stoic but authoritative Gen though the less said the better about the unimpressive characterizations of Chris Klein and Moon Bloodgood as the mostly inept cops.
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio is rendered here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. While color rendition is solid and flesh tones almost always accurate and impressive, there are occasional shots that appear softer overall than much of the photography, and the image is never really razor sharp to begin with. In a flyover shot of Hong Kong early in the movie, there are numerous moiré patterns on display, and there are even crawling pixels on occasion which disappoint. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix comes through best during the most expressive fight scenes involving multiple combatants, and the climactic firefight really makes outstanding use of the entire soundfield. The music by Stephan Endelman is also channeled through the soundstage giving some spread to the sound mix’s expansiveness. Deep bass is also impressive on occasion.
The disc offers the viewer the opportunity to watch the theatrical cut (PG-13) or an unrated extended edition. As there is less than a minute’s difference between the two versions, one imagines there must be a bit more graphic content in a couple of shots.
An audio commentary is available with the unrated edition of the movie. It features producers Ashok Amritraj and Patrick Aiello and co-stars Neal McDonough and Chris Klein. It’s a perfectly pleasant but unstimulating conversation between the four men, all of whom like and admire one another. Many comments made here are repeated in the bonus featurettes offered elsewhere on the disc.
Street Fighter: In-Movie Enlightenment is a selection that turns on a trivia track of pop-up facts which runs throughout the movie. It is possible to have both the commentary and the trivia track running simultaneously as the movie plays.
There are fourteen deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in a 15 ½ –minute grouping. They’re all in 480i.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 Sneak Peak is a 1 ¼-minute trailer for the video game presented in 720p.
“Becoming a Street Fighter” is the movie’s EPK featurette. It offers in 17 ¾ minutes a brief history of the video game, the casting decisions made by the director and producers, the training the three principals needed to undergo to be camera ready, and the staging and wire work of the fight scenes. It’s in 1080i.
“Chun-Li: Bringing a Legend to Life” is a 6 ½ minute featurette discussing the casting of Kristin Kreuk (who benefited from being a trained gymnast), her grueling work ethic, and the filming of some of her fight scenes. It’s in 1080i.
“Making a Scene” is a brief vignette from the Fox Movie Channel previewing the film before its premiere and showing the star in training and then filming the alley fight for the movie. It runs 9 ½ minutes in 480i.
There are three extensive step-through galleries for the viewer. The first offers side-by-side comparisons between scenes from the video game and scenes from the movie. The second is a selection of fourteen different black and white storyboard galleries. The third features fifteen sets of production portraits of characters and the actors who play them, behind the scenes shots, and posed publicity stills.
The first disc offers trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Dragonball Evolution, and 12 Rounds.
The second disc offers a digital copy of the film with instructions inside for installation on PC and Mac devices.
Disc three in the set is a DVD entitled Street Fighter Round One: Fight! which gives the origin story of Chun-Li in six chapters.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li will likely delight video game enthusiasts and martial arts fans with its steady stream of mismatched fights and decently staged action sequences. Anyone looking for more depth than that might seek satisfaction elsewhere though the disc set does provide some fluffy but nevertheless interesting extras.