There is an endearing simplicity that comes from fighting games, that can be enjoyed at any level. From you and your buddy mashing buttons to skilled maestro’s mastering complex combinations. At any level, you might have a signature fighter or one that is picked most often. Maybe it is a character’s move set, or style, or even the way they taunt and present themselves. The ground-breaking Street Fighter franchise managed to produce decades of successful titles with memorable characters in each. In 2009, one playable fighter, Chun-Li, got a film dedicated to her past and her journey in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
From an early age, Chun-Li only wanted to be a concert pianist. She has a good life with her rich parents. Her father instilled in her the art of Wushu and life seems blissful. That is until the evil M. Bison and his goons raid her home and kidnap her father, for work in his evil organisation, Shadaloo. In the years that pass, Shadaloo’s aggressive expansion has attracted the attention of Interpol. Now grown up, Chun-Li heads to streets to and seek the tutelage of the mysterious Gen to hone her skills and find her father, as these threads become intertwined, a path of combat is in Chun-Li’s future.
For an arcade fighting game, the Street Fighter franchise is pretty lore heavy, and as such, The Legend of Chun-Li packs a lot into its first 15 minutes and doles out much of the intriguing plot throughout its hour and a half runtime. Throughout we are treated to a tour of South East Asia from corporate offices to the titular streets. The countries that are prominent locations from the games Like Hong Kong and Thailand are depicted here. But audiences are here for the action, and there is an abundance present. Absent from the game but present here is the abundance of gun-play that adds more than to the standard hyper-choreographed fistfights. Some of it bends reality (with the gracious use of C.G.I.) and it feels like it is paying homage to the video game roots.
We get treated to a selection familiar faces from the many video games of the franchise, notably famed baddie M. Bison, Neal McDonough is an interesting choice as M. Bison, the villainous overlord is less muscle-bound and a tad more charismatic, as a film villain I like it, but it is a slight departure from cannon. Other henchmen include Balrog, the Mike Tyson stand-in is portrayed by well Michael Clarke Duncan and Vega is depicted by Taboo from the Black Eye Peas. I liked the interplay between Interpol’s Chris Klein’s Nash and Thai police officer Moon Bloodgood’s Maya Sunee. The duo’s investigative interchange is enjoyably, and I would even have enjoyed an investigative spin-off. Even focusing on the titular Chun-Li feels like a refreshing change, whereas some more obvious candidates may have been the safer bet to focus a film on (I.e., Ryu) suffice to say actress Kristin Kreuk offers an entertaining performance as the lead.
In showing the origins of how Chun-Li took to the streets (to fight), The Legend of Chun-Li is a literal tour de force, packed full of story, interesting characters and a hefty dose of martial arts mastery to boot. Plucking a plethora of elements from the games to tell its tale, but never being afraid to make interesting by drawing inspiration from other elements, that the games hardly tread on. It is safe to say that Street Fighter more than packs a punch.
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