Ten years ago, director Andrzej Bartkowiak made a martial arts film called Romeo Must Die starring Jet Li and the late, great R&B singer Aliyah. And even if it wasn’t a wonderful movie, it seemed an interesting internationalization of the Hong Kong-dominated genre-even the evil white guys had unexpected dimensions. This last weekend, Bartkowiak debuted Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which admittedly had the built-in cheese factor of being an adaptation of a Capcom arcade game. Remember though, Pirates of the Caribbean was based on an amusement park ride. Critics thought that if anybody has a chance to make this United Nations cast with an actually non-cartoon-ish female lead work-she’s a concert pianist before she learns to control her qi-maybe it’s Bartkowiak.
Sadly, no such luck. Whoever saddled this film with the lovely but lifeless Kristin Kreuk (of Smallville fame) decided to complete the matched mediocrity by pitting her against Chris Klein, the former boy wonder star of American Pie. The bland casting is more than matched by a plot stolen from a thousand sources, a thoroughly predictable excuse to teach yet another unwitting disciple that getting revenge for your father is best done if you learn to be coolly and objectively violent. (Luke Skywalker, meet Chun Li.) If Sonny Chiba, the original Street Fighter, heard this drivel, he would’ve laughed as he popped out some eyeballs with one spiteful punch.
You might imagine that the arcade game-makers would want to show some gratitude to the very people who made them rich by giving back a chop-socky spectacular, but even the fight scenes in this film are turgid. About halfway through you realize with sinking spirits that these ingrates didn’t care enough to make a good commercial.