Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (UK - BD RB)
Chris checks out the Optimum Blu-ray release of the recent videogame movie
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li follows the exploits of the petite Chinese martial arts expert with the unfeasibly large thighs. In this origin story young Chun-Li’s (Kristin Kreuk) father is kidnapped by an evil Irish-Thai (yes, you read that right) crime lord called Bison (Neil McDonough), prompting the young girl to put aside her life as a concert pianist and focus on revenge. She is aided in her endeavour by Interpol agent Charlie Nash (a woefully miscast Chris Klein) and Detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood), and trained by wise old martial arts master Gen (Robin Shou, who played Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat movies). Together they face off against Bison and his henchmen, Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan in the film’s only good bit of casting) and Vega (Taboo from Black Eyed Peas).
Does all of that sound ridiculous enough? Well that’s because it is. I’ve watched some pretty bad films in my time, including the original Street Fighter movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but at least that film had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. The most distressing thing about Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is that you really get the feeling that everyone involved thought they were making some sort of crossover hit that would spawn numerous sequels. Instead, they’ve crafted one of the worst films of 2009, replete with performances so wooden I thought I might have unintentionally put one of the Puppet Master films into my Blu-ray player.
There are so many problems with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li it’s difficult to know where to begin my criticism, but I’ll start with the person I consider to be the chief offender: Chris Klein. The cock-sure twat literally sneers his way through every scene and delivers his dialogue like he’s parodying Keanu Reeves. My ejaculate has greater range. He’s not the only offender though. For some reason the actor Neil McDonough though it would be a good idea to give Bison an Irish accent. Now you might think this makes sense, as the film portrays him as the orphaned son of Irish immigrants, but the last I checked babies can’t speak, which begs the question 'where did he get the Irish accent if he spent most of his life living in brutal Thai slums'?
This brings us neatly on to Kristin Kreuk’s turn as one of the most iconic and recognisable videogame characters of all time. In the games Chun-Li is depicted as a Chinese girl with incredibly powerful thighs, and while Kreuk is Eurasian the fundamental problem with her portrayal is that she is a super-svelte Neutrogena model who looks nothing like Chun-Li. Having watched Kreuk whisper her way through Smallville for years (and getting progressively worked up as time passed) I wasn’t really surprised by her performance, which consists of alternately simpering, scowling, and looking perplexed. Okay, so she’s not Chris Klein awful, but I don’t think that it is statistically possible for two actors to suck that hard in the same movie (unless it’s a couple of skanks tag-teaming Ron Jeremy).
The film is presented in its theatrical (yes, it was released theatrically) aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (1080/24p AVC) and is pretty much what you’d expect from a film of recent vintage. The most impressive aspect of the transfer is probably the colour rendition, which is extremely vibrant. Flesh tones aren't what I'd call natural, but this is due to stylistic choices rather than any faults with the image. Detail is also very strong, especially in close-up shots where you can pick out individual pores and beads of sweat on faces. There is some light grain throughout, but it's nothing out of the ordinary, and the transfer is largely free from film artefacts. On the negative side there is some aliasing in a few shots (particularly near the beginning) and blacks aren't completely solid. Apart from that there's not to complain about (if only the same could be said for the film).
The disc includes two audio tracks: PCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. What with this being a relatively new film I went for the latter, and having read glowing reviews of the soundtrack on the US release I was expecting something very special. Unfortunately either the reviews I read were wrong, or something appears to have gone awry in the translation from the US to UK. To be fair the track is actually pretty good for the most part, with plenty of atmosphere and some genuinely impressive use of the surround channels throughout. However, dialogue often borders on unintelligible, and as much as I'd like to believe this was a compassionate move on Optimum's part, I'm fairly sure that is not the case. In fact, the frontal array as a whole is often eclipsed by the rear channels. Bass was also something that US reviewers raved about, but I wasn't quite as impressed. It flips between powerful and thunderous and weak and flat a little too often for my tastes, with some of the punches sounding downright limp. None of these issues are total deal-breakers, but they do take the shine off of things.
Becoming a Street Fighter (17:49 SD): This feature is basically a short ‘making of’ that includes interviews with all of the principal cast, the writer, and the producer (tellingly the director is not involved). Everyone talks about their love of the game (although the accompanying footage is taken from numerous different versions), the importance of casting the right lead and villain, and basically make all of the right noises. Unfortunately what ended up on the screen doesn't bear much of a resemblance to the film that they seemingly set out to make. Oddly enough I found Chris Klein’s interview footage slightly disturbing, because he comes off even creepier than he does in the main feature.
Bringing the Legend to Life (06:33 SD): This looks to have been assembled from footage culled from the previous featurette, but it has a Chun-Li-centric theme. It features interviews with the same people and is basically all about bigging up Kristin Kreuk’s performance. The participants briefly touch on the character’s back-story and the various nods to the arcade incarnation that are included in the film, but the featurette is perfunctory at best.
Deleted Scenes (15 SD): A series of deleted scenes follow in rough-cut form, lacking subtitles on the foreign dialogue and missing visual effects. A few are slight extensions to existing scenes, some of which might have actually improved the film (such as the bathroom scene), but others are entirely new and add nothing to the plot (such as the vanity shot of Chun-Li sitting next to the film’s producer at the airport). Chris Kline also features too heavily for my liking. The last scene is an awful alternate ending that was wisely omitted.
Theatrical Trailer (01:07 SD): The film’s theatrical trailer is included and actually does a pretty good job of making the film look at lot better than it is. My advice is to watch this on YouTube and skip the film altogether.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is possibly the worst film I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen Lesbian Vampire Killers. Casting a TV actress who looks less like an arse-kicking martial artist and more like a stiff breeze would knock her on her arse wasn’t brightest move, but it is Chris Klein’s watershed performance that will be remembered for years to come (for all the wrong reasons). The only positive thing I can say about this film is that it includes footage of Moon Bloodgood in a bra, but if that sort of thing floats your boat you can simply visit the Internet like the rest of us.
If you must subject yourself to this pap then the Blu-ray isn’t actually too bad. The extras are somewhat weak when compared to Fox’s US release, but the video transfer is nice enough and the audio is fairly strong (even with the above caveats).
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 5th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Chris Klein, Moon Bloodgood, Robin Shou, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josie Ho, Taboo, Edmund Chen, Pei-pei Cheng
Length: 96 minutes
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