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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a review of the theatrical release and not the "unleashed and unrated" version available on DVD that may include more questionable content. This film is wholly and entirely based on the popular Street Fighter video game series -- a new edition of which just hit stores. Parents also need to know that despite the PG-13 rating, there's a great amount of gun play and lethal violence in the film; while (mostly) bloodless, the film's plot still involves a body count in the dozens. Parents also need to know that this film is a love letter to vengeance and wrath, as a young woman fights her way across Asia to find and punish the man who imprisoned her father.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) was a beloved little girl, whose father wanted her to be a concert pianist and loved teaching her the ways of the martial arts; when her father was taken from her in her youth by the crime lord Bison (Neal McDonough), she was heartbroken. Years later, after her mother's death, Chun-Li leaves her piano behind after a mysterious scroll tells her she must leave for Bangkok to find a mystic mentor in the martial arts, uncover the truth of what happened to her father, and face Bison.
Is it any good?
Street Fighter feels almost like a parody of itself. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak has made previous, disposable mainstream martial-arts action films like Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave -- which were hardly good, but weren't as painfully bad as STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI. The movie is saddled with cheap-looking cinematography, talky voice-over, and some hilariously bad performances (including Chris Klein in ludicrously overdone stubble-and-grimace mode as a driven Interpol cop).
The plot is a mishmash of a thousand other action films -- Chun-Li finds a mystic teacher, trains to access her talents at a new level and forsake anger so she might stop the man who took her father, even as the cops (Klein and Moon Bloodgod) are closing in on Bison as well; meanwhile, Bison (who for some reason has an Irish accent that's taken from the old Lucky Charms commercials) is enacting a plan to drive the poor from Bangkok's slums to buy the land and profit from it. But everything in Street Fighter is obvious -- from the unsurprising big twist to the clumsy set-up for a sequel -- and the actors are as wooden as the script is poorly-crafted. The marital arts cinema can offer vibrant action and thrilling technique, but here the look, feel, and excitement of a whole genre is just exploited ineptly for a 97-minute long commercial.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the curious phenomenon of the video game-to-film adaptation, a recent trend that's given us films as infamously bad as Super Mario Brothers and Resident Evil; are these interesting riffs on beloved characters and settings, or are they mercenary exercises in money-making and greed?
Families can also talk about the portrait of a female actress as the lead in this film -- is this a bold blow for equality through showing a female lead kick, punch, and kill, or a step back from it?
Finally, families can talk about the MPAA rating system and the thought process that underlies it: How is it a film with dozens of deaths, some in hand-to-hand combat and some in pitched gun battles, can have a PG-13 rating?
- In theaters: February 27, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: June 30, 2009
- Cast: Chris Klein, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Clarke Duncan
- Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of violence and martial arts action, and some sensuality.