Based on the popular video game franchise, female fighter Chun Li embarks on a quest for justice.
There's a lot of good things about this film that I enjoyed very much as a lot of things do work very well. But whenever there is a scene that involves people exchanging dialogue, then Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li gets into some trouble.
I met director Andrzej Bartkowiak a while back when he was making the movie Exit Wounds in the Toronto area. He was moving into his 2nd career in show-business as he was one of the most respected Director's of Photography in the industry for his terrific work in many movies in every single genre. Comedy, Drama, Romance and Action -- Andrzej could do it all. He went from Terms of Endearment to Twins to Speed to his final film Thirteen Days with many other popular films in between. Like many terrific DOP's, he comes from the land of Poland and he could of gone into the Cinematography Hall of Fame (if there is one) on the first ballet.
But he wanted to be a director and it's not exactly working out too great. Exit Wounds is almost unwatchable as there is overall problem with the tone of all the performances. We just don't care and therefore the cool and well filmed action sequences fall by the wayside (a continuing pattern). His other films, Cradle 2 the Grave and Doom (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's only current misfire), are also pretty bad films that no one will remember.
So what about Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li? Will this be Andrzej's first hit?
Well probably not. This isn't exactly a bad film as the action scenes are unique and exciting to watch. But it goes back to the characters again. There isn't one relationship that is convincing in this film and therefore we just don't care what happens.
Perhaps the worst casting choice I've seen come out of Hollywood in years is Chris Klein attempting to play the Don Johnson/Miami Vice type. He's suppose to be a cool cop with an edge character in this film. Klein, best known from the American Pie films, doesn't have a dark edge in his entire soul. He's a good actor (he pulls off a terrific performance in the film Election), but just isn't a cop trying to follow a sadistic maniac. I don't know what they were thinking.
I am reading a Brandon Tartikoff biography (the man who ran NBC in the 1980-90s) and he has an entire chapter on how there just isn't a solid 35-year old actor out there. It's an age that many screenwriters write into their work and if you are an actor who's in that category and you aren't a pretty boy/ugly guy/weakling, then you have a good chance in landing a role in this industry. The role Chris Klein has fits into that category and I guess they just couldn't find anyone else. And shame on his reps for getting him this role because it's just something he can't do.
A bad performance can make you laugh in all the wrong places and take you right out of the film. And that's what his performance did for me.
In many ways Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is the female version of Batman. Woman loses parents, is rich, and goes into the slums to fight off criminals and perhaps make the world a better place. Her enemy is this film (and the man who stole her father away) is played wonderfully by the mostly TV actor Neal McDonough. He's a mean son-of-a-bitch with a set of the most interesting blue eyes and is easily the best thing in the film. Too bad the director didn't know how to block his talkie scenes to maximize this performance.
I really wanted to like this film but I just didn't. I hoped for this to be a good movie as I think that's the next step in these genres --- having a vulnerable but strong female action hero. It's been tried before without much success. And someone is now going to have to try it again.
I really wished Andrzej Bartkowiak would just stick to what he's great at and work with a director who can pull the emotions out of the audience when there isn't an action scene happening. He's a brilliant cinematographer as the actions scenes in this film are so good, perhaps the best I've seen over a year. But no one will remember them, or even see them, because the entire movie doesn't hold together. And a film must work as a whole or it won't work at all.