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Blu-ray Review: Street Fighter – The Legend of Chun-Li (Three Disc Special Edition)

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Movies based on videogames do not have a terribly good reputation.  While it is possible to make a successful and popular film based on a game, more often than not, the audience is left with a terribly disappointing movie, one which only diehard fans (and sometimes not even them) seem to enjoy.  Exactly why so few good films are made based on videogames is difficult to say, and Street Fighter:  The Legend of Chun-Li is certainly not one of the better adaptations.

This film, the second big-screen live-action adaptation of the Street Fighter game franchise, tells the story of Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk), and how she went from being an innocent pianist to a superb fighter.  While full of a well-known, well-recognized cast including Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Moon Bloodgood, the film is full of wooden performance; disappearing, reappearing accents (McDonough's accent magically comes and goes); and a ridiculous thread-bare plot. 

At a young age, Chun-li's father is murdered by the evil Bison (McDonough), and years later Chun-li makes it her mission to avenge the killing… only her father isn't really dead, he's been helping Bison for years.  Dear old dad has been helping out the villain for years because every time he does Bison gives him a picture or video of Chun-li – apparently his love his so strong that he doesn't mind helping out hurting thousands and thousands of people just to see a picture of his girl.  But, Chun-li doesn't know that, so she heads off to learn about a cult because someone left a scroll she can't read in her dressing room following a performance and the leader of said cult trains her to fight Bison.

But, Bison is, as stated above, a pretty bad dude, so there are others after him as well, mainly INTERPOL agent Charlie Nash (Klein), who teams up with local police in Bangkok, mainly Maya Sunee (Bloodgood), to track Bison.  How exactly Nash seems to know more about Sunee's city than she does, and what exactly her attraction to him might be based on is wholly unclear – it's just another one of the movie's dropped threads. 

As the film progresses, we learn some of Bison's improbable history, and Chun-li learns to create and wield spheres of energy which she can use to pummel opponents in fights (not that she does that until the final battle, but everyone knows it's coming from the first time her teacher, Gen, shows her such a sphere).  It is actually here, in the fight sequences, that the film is at its best, but even that isn't terribly good.  Some of the movies we get to see are pretty impressive, but director Andrzej Baartkowiak keeps the cuts quick and angles ever-changing so that never does the audience actually believe the battle to be a choreographed whole as opposed to just bits and pieces strung together.

At best, the film is an uneven one, and the same is true of the video presentation on the Blu-ray.  The vast majority of the film looks stunning, with spectacularly beautiful location shots and well-designed interiors.  The picture tends to be sharp and bold, with good detail.  However, there is the occasional night sequence where digital noise is overly present, making one wonder why that portion of the transfer is so pure.  The audio is far better, with pounding bass, good use of surrounds, and a nice, if a little too loud sometimes in action sequences, mix. 

As for extras, 20th Century FOX appears to have gone for the standard "kitchen sink" mentality.  The Blu-ray comes with the theatrical cut, an unrated cut, commentary by two producers as well as McDonough and Klein, a pop-up trivia track, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurettes, a look at an upcoming game, and three different still galleries.  A second disc contains a digital copy of the movie, while a third has Street Fighter Round One: Fight!, a full-length animated piece which can be viewed both with comic-esque bubbles and without.  The inclusion of this last disc seems very much an attempt to appeal to fans of the franchise, though it may actually be more fun than the live-action feature.

For all its issues, for all its problems, for all its foolishness, it must be remembered that the first live-action Street Fighter movie was also incredibly poor (and sadly starred Raul Julia as M. Bison in his last big screen role).  This film, which seems to operate in an entirely different universe than that one, tells a wholly separate, but equally foolish tale.  Hopefully, if a third live-action film is made, a new tack is taken yet again.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.