DVD Release Date:  June 30, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  February 27, 2009
Rating:  PG-13 (for sequences of violence and martial arts action, and some sensuality)
Genre:  Action
Run Time:  97 min.
Director:  Andrzej Bartkowiak
Actors:  Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Moon Bloodgood, Neil McDonough, Robin Shou, Michael Clarke Duncan

An opening-night screening of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li in the Washington, D.C., area drew just eight people. Maybe the words “based on Capcom’s Street Fighter video games” in the opening credits scared off potential viewers.

The film-based-on-a-video-game genre continues to mushroom, despite very mixed box-office results. For every sequel-spawning success like Lara Croft, with its big-name star (Angelina Jolie), there’s a Hitman starring Timothy Olyphant or Doom starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—recognizable faces to some, but not exactly household names.

The video-game-as-movie is presold to audiences—usually young males—familiar with video games, and who won’t let B-list actors keep them from seeing their beloved game play out on the big screen.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, should cause them to reconsider. If not this, then what will?

The most familiar faces in Street Fighter are the villains: Bison, played by Will McDonough (from TV’s Desperate Housewives and Boomtown) and henchman Balrog, played by Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins). Bison wants to develop a Bangkok slum, but our heroine, Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk), has other ideas. She’s tired of seeing people taken advantage of. “Everywhere I looked, there was crime without punishment,” she tells us in one of many moments of voiceover narration—an admission by the filmmakers that they can’t convey basic facts through drama, but must rely instead on character monologues to explain things.

The story, such as it is, has the young concert pianist, Chun-Li, growing up and discovering a scroll that leads her to Gen (Robin Shou), a mentor who heads a crime-fighting group, the Order of the Web. As Bison’s dream of gentrifying a Bangkok slum comes closer to fruition, Chun-Li trains with Gen and prepares to confront the villain. Questions about her mysterious upbringing will be answered as she discovers her purpose and identity.

Filling out the story are two police officers, Maya and Nash (Moon Bloodgood and Chris Klein), who are chasing Bison when they aren’t chasing each other, which is often. With his five o’clock shadow, Klein resembles a Miami Vice cast member, minus the charisma.

Street Fighter should be a martial-arts extravaganza, but the fight scenes are infrequent, unsurprising and dull. Blame that on director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who in 2005 helmed the aforementioned Doom.

McDonough enlivens things a bit whenever he’s on screen, but a storyline involving his daughter proves ridiculous even by video-game-as-movie standards. Who gets paid to write stories like this? Can they refund viewers’ money?

Maybe some of that economic stimulus money can be sent our way as reimbursement. After all, politics aren’t too far removed from this story. When Gen instructs Chun-Li to fight injustice by fighting for something greater than herself, the line echoes rhetoric from last year’s presidential campaign—a far more compelling and consequential drama.