Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) Review

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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009): 5 out of 10: A Batman Begins style reboot for the Street Fighter series which up to this point comprised one highly derided film released 15 years earlier.

In “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” the story follows Chun-Li’s (Kristin Kreuk) journey from a normal life in San Francisco to the bustling streets of Hong Kong, where her family is abruptly attacked and her father (Edmund Chen) abducted by the criminal organization Shadaloo. Growing up and becoming a talented concert pianist, Chun-Li’s life takes a drastic turn when she receives a mysterious scroll and loses her mother to cancer.

In Bangkok, Thailand, crime boss M. Bison (Neal McDonough) tightens his grip on Shadaloo, eliminating any opposition ruthlessly. Meanwhile, Royal Thai Police detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) and Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) investigate Shadaloo’s criminal activities, linking them to the murders of several crime syndicate families.

Guided by an elderly woman’s advice, Chun-Li travels to Bangkok to find a man named Gen (Robin Shou), who holds information about her father’s whereabouts. Living on the streets, Chun-Li eventually encounters Gen, who becomes her mentor in martial arts and reveals Bison’s dark past.

Chun-Li’s quest for justice leads her to uncover Bison’s plans to seize control of valuable properties through coercion and violence. Despite facing numerous challenges and betrayals, including an intense encounter with Bison’s henchmen, Chun-Li persists in her mission.

Teaming up with Nash and Maya, Chun-Li infiltrates Shadaloo’s operations to rescue her father and confront Bison. In a climactic showdown, Chun-Li and Gen face off against Bison and his forces, ultimately defeating him and saving a young girl who turns out to be Bison’s daughter, Rose.

Returning to Hong Kong, Chun-Li finds closure and peace, but her journey is far from over as Gen presents her with an opportunity to join a Street Fighter tournament, hinting at future adventures and battles for justice.

The Good

The Good: You know if you forget this is supposed to be a Street Fighter film (easy to do at all since outside of some the character names this really has nothing to do with Street Fighter) this really isn’t that bad. Good production values and location shooting with the occasional action beat. Considering this was at number 76 of the 100 worst movies of all time on the IMDB list not too long ago, the low expectations do it some favors as well. Both Kristin Kreuk as the titular star and Moon Bloodgood as a detective are watchable and refreshing. In addition, Michael Clarke Duncan is clearly having fun and his enthusiasm is infectious.

The Bad

The Bad: Entire doctoral theses has been written about all the things wrong with the movie. Among the various sins are child actors that look nothing like their adult counterparts (to the point of being a clearly different nationality), Chris Klein is awful and drags down every scene he is in, Chris Klein is in way too many scenes, and the villain makes no sense.

The Ugly

The Ugly: Here we get to the crux of the hatred for this unremarkable action film. Street Fighter fans. This is, by any measure, a terrible adaptation of the source material. Now I have to admit my eyes glaze over when rabid fandoms go on the attack because the backstory written to sell some toys and fill five minutes of a twenty-four-minute cartoon is treated as if Moses himself brought it down from the mountain. (I am looking your way Transformers fans), but Street Fighter fans have an understandable beef.

As source material goes, Street Fighter is a pretty thin gruel. Unlike many modern video games, Street Fighter has more in common with Pac-Man or Donkey Kong than, say, The Last of Us. You have colorful characters and a fighting tournament outside of that a screenwriter has carte blanche to do what he wants with the story. Guess what this movie does not have? If you said a fighting tournament and colorful characters guess what, you will win a prize.

I have top ask though what is it with fighting game movie adaptations not having the fighting tournament that is the point and pretty much all the substance of said game. As bad as The Legend of Chun-Li is regarding this, it is still better than 2021s Mortal Kombat, which also basically skipped the tournament.

This is the equivalent of making a Dead or Alive movie adaptation and not having breast physics and wet t-shirts.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: Clearly, the screenwriter had a Tomb Raider script sitting in a dusty drawer (The film makes much more sense as a Tomb Raider reboot than a Street Fighter one) and got a call from his agent. Meh, one video game is the same as another, just change Lara Croft to Chun Li and change the Irish real estate mogul into Bison and we are cooking with gas. No need to change the plot about the cave of soul cleansing or the mysterious scroll or the heroine living alone in the mansion with servants after her father’s disappearance.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is a decent B movie action film but in all fairness a horrible adaptation of the source material.

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