Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The "best" bad movie of 2009

Over the next few weeks we'll take a look at the best and worst of 2009. To start things off we begin with the "best" bad movie of the year.

There are bad movies, there are awfully bad movies, and then there are movies so ridiculously bad they force you to bellow with laughter and titter with glee as they instantly earn guilty pleasure status.

Street Figther: The Legend of Chun-Li isn't a good movie, let's get that straight. It is however a enjoyable trainwreck and one of the most unintentionally funny films I've ever seen.

Based on the Street Fighter video game character Chun-Li, the film tells the story of a young girl who grew up to be world renown concert pianist. The sudden arrival of mysterious scroll coinciding with the death of her mother leads her to Bangkok. There she will learn the art of Wushu to kick ass and save her father from Bison (Neal McDonough) and the terrorist organization called Shadaloo who controls him through threats of harm against his family. (You follow all that?) Not exactly Shakespeare, but as action scripts go I've seen worse.

All movies rely on the audience's level of disbelief, often asking the audience to accept some downright dumb ideas. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li asks more than most.

We are expected to believe a young Asian orphan grows up into a beautiful Canadian actress. This is only slightly harder to swallow than the idea that a few martial arts lessons during her childhood and a few weeks living on the streets and training with a mysterious master (Robin Shou) can prepare her to take down one of the world's deadliest fighters, and all his minions.

Throw in plenty of martial arts sequences which all find ways to sneak in moves from the Street Fighter games, Chris Klein doing an impression of the worst of Nicholas Cage (complete with weird hair), the mysterious spider tattoos, and Bison's secret pact with the devil to divest himself of the goodness within him, and you've got the makings for a truly awful film.

There are also convoluted issues involving Bison's land scheme, the odd couple buddy cop relationship between the American cowboy (Klein) and the local cop (Moon Bloodgood), and plenty of horrific dialogue that will make you laugh and wince simultaneously.

What makes The Legend of Chun-Li work despite itself is the level of earnestness in the proceedings. Everyone involved here is playing it straight, believing (despite the script and dialogue) that they are making a kick ass action flick with strong dramatic moments. Had someone attempted to purposely create the level of camp the film delivers without trying the results would be disastrous.

The action scenes are mostly well done (nothing special I grant you, but for those who enjoy a "good" Seagal or Van Damme flick, you should feel right at home). Yes, they include several forced video game moves which don't work well (or, sometimes, at all), but the wire work is competently done and you can tell the actors and stuntmen trained hard to get the fight scenes to work visually.

Kreuk, though miscast, does a fair job with the absurdity of a out-of-work concert pianist turned kung fu warrior out for vengeance. It's obvious she put in the time to meet the physical demands of the role. If anything, the script fails her, not the other way around.

Klein is impossible to take seriously and with every glance or word gives you a new reason to burst into laughter. Bloodgood is well-cast as tough but hot eye candy (and that's about the limit of what her role calls for). McDonough is constantly chewing up large chunks of scenery as the big bad, and Taboo and Michael Clark Duncan make passable flunkies.

For those wishing to check it out the film is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Both include extras such as both the theatrical and un-rated version of the movie, commentary by McDonough, Klein, and producers Patrick Aiello and Ashok Amritraj, trailers, storyboards, stills, and deleted scenes. Also included are featurettes on the character of Chun-Li, the intensive workouts and martial arts training the actors went through for the film, bringing the video game to life, and the casting of Kreuk.

For those who have a taste for bad movies which are under the delusion they are something more I would heartily recommend Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Is in a bad film? Hell yeah, but it's the "best" bad film I saw this year.

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