For the first time since Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia (in his final role) duked it out in 1994, a Street Fighter film is premiering across the US. News Corporation subsidiary 20th Century Fox is opening Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li in more than 1,100 theaters today. The studio is hoping the film's roots in Capcom's video game series and the recent launch of Street Fighter IV will attract young males, with young females all but guaranteed to flock to Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.
Unfortunately for Fox, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li won't be riding a wave of hosannas from critics to box office glory. The first reviews of the film have hit Metacritic, and they range from tepid antipathy to venomous scorn. The least negative summary so far is from Variety's Rob Nelson, who calls it "neither the best nor the worst of movies derived from videogames...at least [it] gives action fans plenty to ogle besides the titular heroine."
The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck was less diplomatic, declaring, "Yet another video game crashes and burns upon its translation to the big screen with this cinematic rendition of the venerable franchise."
However, the sharpest barb comes from Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz, who gave the film a grade of D-minus. "It's an anonymous soup of pan-Asian action cliches slopped into the story of a fast-kicking hottie out to avenge her kidnapped father," he writes. "The fight scenes are saggy, the actors are stiff, and the sleepiness of it all is enough to make you nostalgic for the simple smackdown charms of the movie's namesake videogame."
Markovitz singles out Chris Klein (Rollerball) and Kristen Kreuk (Smallville) for particular scorn for their flat portrayals of classic canon characters Charlie and Chun-Li. The film costars Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) as Balrog and Robin Shou (Liu-Kang in the Mortal Kombat movie) as Gen, with Moon Bloodgood (Journeyman), Edmund Chen (the original Hong Kong version of The Eye), rapper Taboo (of the Black Eyed Peas), and Shaw Bros. legend Chang Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in supporting roles. The Legend of Chun-Li was directed by former cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, who is already infamous among gamers for his direction of the slightly less panned big-screen version of Doom.