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Movie Review

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

In 'Street Fighter,' everyone's game for violence

By Michael Hardy
Globe Correspondent / March 2, 2009
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The most remarkable thing about "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" is that it probably won't be a candidate for the worst movie of the year. That by itself defies expectations for the second live-action movie based on Capcom's popular arcade game franchise. (The first was 1994's "Street Fighter," starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.) The game, first released in 1987, was based on a then-novel concept: Two players choose characters from an international cast of martial arts experts and attempt to beat their opponent into bloody pulp by banging away at the arcade buttons. It was a sort of cartoon Ultimate Fighting Championship before the fact.

The new film provides the background and characterization that the game couldn't. It focuses on Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk), the daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman kidnapped by a very blond, very angry character named Bison (Neal McDonough). Bison runs a crime syndicate whose major operation appears to consist of razing Southeast Asian slums and building luxury houses on top of them - an Extreme Makeover: Bangkok Edition, as it were.

To rescue her father, Chun-Li joins forces with the martial arts master Gen (Robin Shou), who teaches her to perform midair somersaults using only a hidden harness and a cable-and-pulley system. Having proven adept at wire fu, Chun-Li goes on a Tarantino-inspired roaring rampage of revenge, beating up a succession of comically named villains before she gets her chance to Kill Bison.

I suppose a movie called "Street Fighter" lives and dies by its fight sequences, and I'm happy to report that it contains enough bone-snapping, skull-crunching, eye-gouging, blood-gushing action to satisfy even the most Ritalin-addled 13-year-old; this is a movie for the overcaffeinated, undereducated teenager in all of us.

STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Starring: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 97 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (sequences of violence and martial arts action, some sensuality)

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