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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Hey kids, want a movie with loads of flash and no substance? Prefer fight scenes to character or plot development? Wanna check your brain at the door and zone out on hyper kinetic action without having to think? Then Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li is the movie for you.
Somehow supposedly based on the popular and long running Street Fighter video game series (which has spawned all manner of animated spin offs, comic books, toys and yes, the Van Damme movie of the same name), this movie tells the story of a young piano player named Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) who, during her younger years was witness to the kidnapping of her father, Xiang, by an evil supervillain named Bison (Neal McDonough) and his muscle bound lackey, Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). As time progresses, Bison's plan for poor Chun-Li's father becomes clear: he's going to use him to strong arm himself into heading the Thailand-based Shadaloo Corporation which is really little more than a front for his criminal real estate activity.
When Chun-Li grows up and becomes a hot adult with a tight fitting wardrobe, she learns the martial arts and hooks up with a team of warriors called The Order Of The Web. Under the tutelage of their leader, a former henchman of Bison's named Gen (Robin Shou), Chen-Li becomes a force to be reckoned with and before you know it, Chen-Li, a pair of Interpol agents (Chris Klein and Moon Bloodgood as Nash and Maya respectively) are trying to put a stop to Bison and bring he and his cronies to justice and along the way lots of people fight.
So aside from a standard revenge plot, what does this film offer? Well, despite the fact that she doesn't resemble the video game character that Chun-Li is based on, Kristen Kreuk is fun to look at. She handles herself well in the fight scenes and has a pretty decent screen presence. Her performance won't go down in history as a classic but she's got the style and moves that she makes for a pretty decent protagonist. Her chemistry with Robin Shou, whose Gen goes from a complete ass kicker to an easily defeated pusher by the end of the film, feels a bit forced and unnatural but he too at least has a physicality to him that works in the part. Neal McDonough's Bison has an inconsistent Irish accent that would be in keeping with his character's origin if it were a constant but instead it proves to be a distraction as it fades in and out though Michael Clarke Duncan makes for a really good Balrog and steals most of the scenes that he's in. The less said about Chris Klein's performance as the perpetually 'witty' Nash the better while Bloodgood is more or less completely disposable in her role.
You'd hope that the plot could make up for the mediocre acting, but again, the movie falls short. There isn't much here to really hook you, and aside from the characters' various abilities, there's nothing here we haven't seen before in countless other martial arts films and in spaghetti westerns before that. This leaves the fight scenes to carry the bulk of the weight of the film and not surprisingly they really are the film's only redeeming quality. They're well choreographed and plentiful and they give the performers ample opportunity to strut their stuff. While there's obviously been some digital manipulation applied here and there, given that this is a 'video game' inspired movie maybe the CGI isn't out of place. Chun-Li's showdown with Bison at the end of the film is as impressive as you'd hope for and her bathroom brawl with Cantana (Josie Ho) is another film highlight. The action is set against the interesting Thai landscape which adds some welcome visual flair and the action scenes are first and foremost the most important part of the film. It's obvious by their emphasis that they're meant to distract us from the flat acting and uninspired plot, and it sort of works. This isn't a terrible time waster, though there's no doubt that on a narrative level it's a pretty terrible film. Checking your brain is a prerequisite, but that doesn't mean action movie fans won't have at least a little bit of fun watching a very pretty girl beating up a bunch of goons. If that sounds like your idea of a good movie, then you'll probably appreciate it. If you want more than just superficial and hyper stylized violence, however, keep moving, there's nothing for you here.
This Blu-ray release contains both the theatrical cut of the film and the 'unrated and unleashed' cut of the movie.The DVD
Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li is presented in an excellent anamorphic widescreen presentation in 1080p/VC-1 at 2.35.1. Detail levels are excellent throughout playback, even during the darker scenes, and contrast levels look dead on. Black levels are nice and strong and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. This is a surprisingly sharp transfer making use of a very 'comic book' inspired color palette and this transfer really brings the colors out nicely. There aren't any problems with print damage at all nor is there any evidence of any odd authoring problems. Compression artifacts are non-existent and there aren't any edge enhancement problems. The outdoor shots of the city look incredible while close up shots show a remarkable level of facial detail. Some of the more high contrast shots lose some detail in the 'heat' of the image but this is intentional and an obvious stylistic choice. Some mild aliasing is present if you really want to look for it but aside from that, and a couple of shots that show a bit more grain than you might expect (which is never in the least bit intrusive), Fox has done an excellent good job here.Sound:
The movie arrives on Blu-ray with an excellent English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional subtitles available in English SDH, French and Spanish. As you'd expect, this is a very aggressive track that comes at you from all across the soundstage delivering crisp and concise channel separation and plenty of interesting, subtle background activity. You'll really notice this during the fight scenes where the action will zip past you from the front to the back of the mix and vice versa. Bass response is fantastic, ensuring that all of the kicks and punches sound like they really hurt, while dialogue stays clean, clear and audible even during the more action intense moments of which the film has many. The score resonates nicely across the mix and there are no problems at all with hiss or distortion. Levels are all properly balanced resulting in a very nice, enveloping and damn near reference quality surround sound experience.Extras:
The extras, of which there are plenty, starts off with an audio commentary courtesy of producers Patrick Aiello, Ashok Amritraj, and actors Neal McDonough and Chris Klein. Available for the unrated version only, this is a fairly active track where the participants talk about putting this picture together and what it was like working in front of the camera. The two actors discuss their characters a bit and lend some insight into the scenes that they played a part in while the producers more or less fill us in on how this picture came to be and what they were going for with this project. It's not a mind-blowing talk by any stretch but those who want input from the people who made the film will definitely find it here as this commentary pretty much covers all the bases.
Up next is the Street Fighter: In Movie Enlightenment option which is basically a picture in picture track that throws out some trivia as the movie plays out. Fans of the series will get a kick out of this but casual viewers probably won't be all that impressed. The 14 Deleted Scenes that are included don't add a whole lot to the movie, though they do expand a bit on some of the character's actions. There's no commentary or introductory footage to explain why these bits weren't used or to present them in any sort of context and unless you were really wowed but the movie you probably won't care too much about this material but it's better to see it included here than not.
Becoming a Street Fighter is an eighteen minute featurette that includes input from the producers, the writing team and most of the principal cast members who elaborate on their characters and what they had to go through to bring their characters to live for the film. There's some decent footage in here and the interviews do lend some insight into the creative process, but don't except this to get too deep. The six minute Chun Li: Bringing the Legend to Life shows what Kristen Kreuk had to go through, along with some of her co-stars, as far as training for the film and prepping for the role. Again, there's some decent behind the scenes footage here and if you're interesting in who performers prep for the more physical side of their work, this could be of interest to you. The last featurette is the Fox Movie Channel Presents Making A Scene piece that is a nine minute look at how action director Dion Lam coordinated the fight that takes place in the alleyway in the movie, a highlight of the picture.
Closing things off on the first disc is a Marvel vs. Capcom 2: Sneak Peek (basically an advertisement for the video game) bit, three still galleries: Recreating the Game: Arcade to Film Comparisons, The Fight in Black and White: Storyboard Gallery, and Behind the Fight: Production Gallery and a couple of trailers for other Fox releases. Animated menus and chapter stops are included for this release as well. All of the extras on this disc, save for the deleted scenes and the still galleries, are presented in HD.
The second disc in this set contains a digital copy of the movie so that you can slap this puppy onto your iPod or whatever device you use and take it with you wherever you go. It's kind of annoying when companies use the whole 'digital copy' thing to make their releases look like they're bigger than they really are, as there's nothing on the digital copy disc that isn't on the first disc in the set, but I digress. It's here for those who want it, and for those who don't, well, you get it anyway.
Disc three is a standard definition disc that features Street Fighter: Round One - Fight!, a six part animated movie that plays out very much like a comic book and which explains the origin of Chun-Li. This is actually a pretty entertaining little extra that will definitely appeal to fans of the series more than the feature film itself probably will.Final Thoughts:
While the quality of the movie itself leaves more than just a little bit to be desired, the inclusion of the much cooler animated movie and the fantastic audio and video quality do go some ways towards making up for that. Fans of the series will pick this up regardless and will definitely enjoy the deluxe treatment that Fox has surprisingly rolled out for this film, while the uninitiated will want to rent it first - Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li is passable, disposable entertainment, but nothing more than that.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.