Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Part 2

I will not fear, fear is the mind killer.  I will not fear, fear is the mind kil- oh, hi!

What was I- you know what, never mind that.  We were getting back into Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, a movie so bad it only sports a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Let's put that into context: DOA has a 34%, meaning one in three people went "eh, it's okay I guess."  Out of a hundred people, you couldn't put together a baseball team out of people who liked this movie.

It's rather bizarre, too, because as a character, Chun-Li fits perfectly into a martial arts film.

In the video games, Chun-Li is neither a genius at playing piano or a terrible news reporter.  She is, in fact, taking part in the Street Fighter tournament as an undercover Interpol agent, determined to take down M. Bison and his entire organization because he killed her father.  Initially, after defeating Bison and bringing his whole organization down, she retires from being an officer to resume being "a normal girl," but a later version of Street Fighter 2 gave you the option to remain a police officer.

Later games in the series would see her continue to be a cop and then eventually retire to teach children martial arts, only joining the tournament again because one of her students is kidnapped.  She eventually returns to street fighting and law enforcement to protect others from those who would become threats to the world like Bison was.

That, right there, is a great hook for a martial arts movie, one lone woman's quest for vengeance against the monster who took her father from her, letting her desire for revenge consume her even as she meets new allies and eventually has to learn to let go of her hatred if she's going to succeed in her quest.  She's nobody's simple "love interest," she doesn't get kidnapped or used as bait by the bad guys, and at no point is she a "prize" for the hero to win.  She's strong and confident, but also kind and compassionate.  She isn't "too perfect" by any means, as we know she has a temper, and her pain gives her depth.

In other words, there's no reason a movie called "The Legend of Chun-Li" where a woman determined to take down her father's killer learns how to kick people 30 times in the face and throw small fireballs around shouldn't be a great martial arts film.

Instead, we have this.  And I need to finish it.

When we left- okay, actually, I need to address something that's bothering me.  So far we know that Chun-Li is supposed to be training under Gen, but she hasn't really done anything even remotely like "training" yet.  He beat her in a practice fight, showed off his ability to throw fireballs, and then she failed at trying to make one while meditating.  That's it.

But when we left, M. Bison had just bought up the entire "slums of Bangkok" to prepare to bulldoze them and install "affordable housing."  There were two cops based off characters who weren't cops doing absolutely nothing to stop him, and Chun-Li was able to pull up all the information she needed to start her investigation by going to an Internet Cafe and searching "Shadaloo," I guess.

We resume outside of Esperanto Corp (hee) headquarters, where Nash (ugh) and Maya (less ugh) are watching for Balrog so they can tail him to his next meeting.  Despite being half a block away and across the street, once Balrog comes out of the building Nash thinks it's time to stick his tongue halfway down Maya's throat so Balrog won't suspect they're watching him.

"Okay, there's the guy we need to focus all of our attention on without getting distracted by anyth-mmmph!"
Sadly, because the two cops assigned to WATCH BALROG are not actually WATCHING BALROG, they don't see him climb into one car, climb out the other side, and get into a taxi instead.  Fortunately, Chun-Li (who is about 30 feet away and peeking from behind a bush) is watching, and sees the switch.

Balrog is actually talking to one of the politicians who earlier signed over the slums to him, loudly announcing to everybody within earshot that there's an important package on its way that Bison wants called "the White Rose."  He also clearly announces that details about it are "on the shipping manifest" so important people will be able to make sure it gets through customs.

Chun-Li, I'll point out, is five feet away in an adjoining escalator listening, and the guy who clearly knows what "the schoolgirl" looks like doesn't recognize her or spot her.

We finally move to some actual training.  Gen blindfolds Chun-Li and has her try to keep marbles he throws at her from hitting her.  He also uses some background noises (chimes, a metal bell, and a table saw) to try to distract her.  Strangely, Chun-Li has absolutely no problems catching marbles in midair when she can't see them, up until Gen beans her with a ball to the back of the head, making her stumble forward and almost fall face-first into a table saw.

Oh, and then Gen jumps up with a sword and tries to bring it down on Chun-Li, but she brings her hands up over her head and catches it, STILL BENT OVER INCHES FROM A TABLE SAW.

Either Gen is the absolute best teacher in the world, or the absolute worst.  Considering we never once saw Chun-Li actually "train" here, she just started to "do it" when directed to, I'd say he's the worst.

We cut to more (painful) flirting between the two cops as Nash shows up to take Maya "clubbing" to follow the woman that Chun-Li researched earlier.  I'm willing to give this scene a pass for two reasons.  One, Maya's apartment is pretty great, from the motorcycle she keeps six feet from her bed, the pair of golden handcuffs cuffed to her bed frame, and the giant garden right outside her glass door with a large Buddhist statue in it, to...well, when Maya enters the scene, she's in jeans and a bra, and as I said before, I really, really like Moon Bloodgood.  I make no apologies.

At said nightclub, the woman who acts as the CFO for Esperanto Corp and is the chief money/business person of Bison's criminal enterprise (and whose name I forgot) shows up, dismisses her bodyguards, and starts looking for the crowd because even important criminal people like to pick up random people at bars.

Oh, and she's a lesbian, something that apparently was also able to be researched on Google, because Chun-Li knows to step out on the dance floor and attempt to seduce (okay, quick look on IMDB...) Cantana with a really award dance.  I'm not kidding, it's clear the actress playing Cantana is trying to play the part like she's interesting in Chun-Li, but Kristin Kreuk is really, really stiff on the dance floor.  Most of the dancing together involves them standing shoulder to shoulder facing opposite directions and just weirdly gyrating their bodies.  It's...it's just weird.

Saying this as a straight male who loves a good seduction scene, this is the worst "girl seducing a girl" scene I've seen in a movie, and I'm including D.E.B.S. in that list.

Chun-Li leads Cantana into a bathroom, because that's where classy people want to make out and/or have illicit public sex is the restroom at a dance clu-

Okay, you know what?  I take it back.  That's a really nice bathroom.  Glass bowls instead of sinks, plenty of lighting, clean floors, a weird wall of circles separating a sitting area/make-up area from the actual "bodily functions" area, it's really nice.

Unfortunately for Cantana, there's a LOT of glass in there, and Chun-Li's plan is to "shatter every piece of it with Cantana's face" until she gives up some answers.  She gets information about the White Rose shipment when Cantana's bodyguards decide the best way to figure out what happened to their boss is to "shoot the lock of the bathroom" and barge their way in.  The flood of people from who SOMEHOW heard gunshots from silenced guns in a dance club alerts the cops that something's up, and they move in.

Chun-Li starts to escape, dealing with guards in the typical way you'd expect her to.  She spins on a stripper pole and kicks one guy in the face, then grabs another one's arm, points his own gun at his chest, and makes him shoot himself.  I- there's so much wrong with that, I don't even want to address it in case I don't come back from that rant.

Then comes what might be the best moment of the movie.  Surrounded by four guys with guns, Chun-Li decides it's time to make use of what a necklace taught her (?) and bust out an original Street Fighter movie while the song "Street Fighter" by Ace Hood is playing.

...I've got nothing to say.  That clip says it all by itself.  That's the quality of the fight scenes at this point, folks.  I don't really remember there being many moves in the first Street Fighter movie that came from the games, but at least they looked like actual fighting moves.

You guys decide if you want to keep going with this, I'm going to get a drink.

Everybody back?  Okay, let's continue.

The cops bust in, Chun-Li escapes, but she takes a moment to give Cantana's money clip (which she stole for herself?) to a homeless woman with a baby and little girl living in an alley, but it doesn't really make up for the fact that Chun-Li actually killed a guy with a gun just a few minutes earlier.

Back at Shadaloo HQ,   We get what's actually a pretty disturbing scene.  Bison and Balrog are both in frame, with Balrog beating on an oversized hanging heavy punching bag while Bison does a lot of the same motions, but when the camera pans out you realize he's literally beating on the corpse of Cantana.

Now, see, if this was a good movie, I'd point out that up until this point Bison has been nothing but a respectable "won't get his hands dirty" criminal mastermind.  He's sympathetic to children, but cold as ice when it comes to boxers punching out the wives of people he's kidnapping.  He'll enjoy a five star dinner while his assassins are killing his rivals.  Here we see a crack in his facade as he finally does get his hands dirty, and in a good movie, it might be a powerful scene.

Here, it's just shock value, I guess.  You momentarily flinch and then go "wait, I didn't care at all about that character because she was only on the screen for ten minutes."

The cops try to theorize who this crazy girl is that beat up Bison's men and escaped despite the fact there must be a security camera somewhere and Interpol might have facial recognition software that would recognize a world-class piano player who sells out concert halls.  They do eventually get a grainy black and white photo to slap onto a piece of paper so they can "walk the beat" and ask if anybody recognizes a generic black smudge, but whatever.  It's not like Nash had a perfect look at her face when they locked eyes and could go to a sketch artist or something.

Okay, the bitterness is starting to sink in again.  Positive thoughts, Erik.  Positive thoughts.

Back at Chen's place, Chen explains the origin of Bison.  Apparently he was the son of Irish missionaries (!) who died (!!) when he was a baby (yet, somehow he has the accent?) but he got sick (?) but survived (!!!).  Becoming a criminal he eventually married a nice local girl, gets her pregnant, and- 

Okay, hold on, I need to take a few breaths to say this because it's too stupid.  It has to be in one long sentence, or I'm going to buckle from the insanity of it all.

Okay, I think I'm ready.

Bison takes his new (and very pregnant) wife to a location called "The Dark Caves" where he lays her on a rock, rips into her stomach with his bare hands, pulls out his baby daughter, and "transfers his conscience into her" so that he won't feel anything "good" ever again.  Keep in mind that while the movie felt the need to censor lyrics in a song at a dance club, they're okay having the sounds of flesh being ripped apart off-screen as Bison murders his wife.

Still here?  Why?

This story apparently takes so long to tell that it goes from daytime to nighttime, allowing Gen to send Chun-Li off to do errands, because apparently he's aware that Bison's men are about to attack his hideout that they learned about...somehow?

I just realized it's been a while since I've shared an image, but I'm not really sure what to share.  Bison beating a woman to death?  Cops being ineffective?  Young Bison Murdering His Wife?

Gen fights a few goons, but Balrog blows the whole place up with an rocket-propelled grenade, and I have to say I think Michael Clarke Duncan truly is the highlight of this movie.  He just seems to be having fun with every line he says, and the look of glee on his face when he takes the RPG from a goon and says "I'll do it myself!" is that of a child finding presents under the three at Christmas.

I just want to point out again, Balrog has killed 0 people up until this point.  Chun-Li has killed 1.
Balrog has also shown at least three emotions at this point.  Chun-Li has barely managed 1.
When Gen's home is blown up, Chun-Li is standing right outside a wall that explodes, but she manages to have no scratches and just some dust on her to show it was a severe explosion.   She finds Gen's spider web necklace on the ground and we get another shot of her trying to cry.  

Bison hires Vega to take out Chun-Li, Nash manages to figure out who Chun-Li is by somehow researching her father first (you know, the guy who everybody thinks is dead?), and Vega somehow manages to track down Chun-Li on the streets of Bangkok leading to another fight scene.

Now, I feel the need to point out that Vega is being played by Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas.  A musician whose knowledge of martial arts I know nothing about against a woman who has proven to be, at best, mediocre at fighting?  

Yeah, this is one more disappointing fight scene.  Not even worth describing, really.

Let's move on, the disappointment is hanging heavy in my viewing right now.

At the shipyard Chun-Li beats up a worker who is really just doing his job (man, Chun-Li's pretty unlikable in this movie) in order to get more information about the White Rose shipment.   Nash and Maya get taken "off the case" because this movie is trying to rip off an awful lot of other movies and they pack up shop.

That night, Chun-Li attempts to sneak into the shipyard just to realize too late she's been set up!  After a really weird chase sequence where a bunch of guys with machine guns can't hit someone holding still, she finally gets taken down and is found by Bison who calmly tells her "You aren't a schoolgirl any more," then has his guys "take her in."

At the place they "take her in" to, Balrog has some goons bring in Chun-Li's father to let the two have a chance to reconnect.  Her father asks why she's taking on Bison, and Chun-Li apparently gets Batman Begins and this script confused when she replies "Sometimes, you have to stand up when standing isn't easy.  You taught me that."  Actually, no, he didn't that I remember.

Bison shows up, and I feel the need to point out that every time he shows up, it's out of absolutely nowhere.  He's the stealthiest guy who ever lived apparently, and so many of his actions are accented by the sound of a tiger growling, whether it's making a threatening gesture, touching someone's face, or simply smiling.  It's actually pretty great, and one of the few things I really like about this movie.

Bison says what might be the most amazing thing I've heard anybody in this movie say so far, when he stands behind Chun-Li's father and tells her "You see, your father has been the milk of my business.  But even milk...has an expiration date."  Then he snaps the neck of Chun-Li's father.

Let's just decompress that line, shall we?  Does anybody ever say "the milk of my business?"  Ever?  Is that a phrase that really successful people use?

Furthermore, everybody knows that milk has an expiration date.  It's up there with fish as "things everybody knows has an expiration date."  The phrase makes absolutely no sense, and I can't believe someone was paid to write that.

Bison crouches down in front of Chun-Li's best "rage face" and calmly tells her, "you will not stop me." 

Aaaaand I think that's where I'm going to end this for now.  This movie is draining and I think I realized why that is.  It's drama after drama after drama, there's nothing light to interrupt the flow and keep things fresh.  There's no comedic sidekick, there's no wacky slapstick moments, there's not even any really funny lines that people throw at each other while fighting.  The movie takes itself too seriously, and not having a chance to smile through the film is really starting to wear me down.

We'll finish this up tomorrow, but things look pretty dark for now!  Chun-Li's captured, her father's dead, the cops are "off the case!" and everything seems to be coming up Bison.  Will there be a satisfying conclusion to this tale that will take everything that's been building up and apply it in a constructive way to leave the audience going "wow?"

...well, I might be saying "wow," but only in a "what the hell was THAT?" sense.


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