Hall of Fame Speech #3: Street Fighter Legend of Chun Li

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a first class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly six years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. Over the next two weeks leading up to the fourth (sixth?) Smaddies Baddies we’ll bring you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. This is the third, for the action (and Chris Klein) packed martial arts masterpiece, Street Fighter Legend of Chun Li. The intention is to reminisce a bit about what we remember about the film, what we think of it now, and why it deserved a special place in BMT history. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Street Fighter Legend of Chun Li

From the first batch of HoF films, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is probably the one that best represents BMT. This is simply because it is the film furthest from what bad movie aficionados typically look for in a top film. If you follow bad movie sites and podcasts, this film is rarely mentioned and when it is it is largely dismissed. Part of that is the lack of true BMT star power. While Battlefield Earth has Travolta, The Wicker Man has Cage, Norbit has Eddie Murphy and Old Dogs has a devastating Travolta/Robin Williams one-two punch, SF:TLoCL merely provides a solid dose of Chris Klein (a BMT fave, but hardly top-tier Hollywood royalty). But for us it hit a magical spot that reverberated through the BMTverse for years.

So what did I remember about the film from my last viewing 5 years ago:

  • The film is about Chun-Li aiming to take down M. Bison because… something, something, something. Chris Klein is also there as Charlie Nash, an interpol agent with one-liners for days, who is also going after M. Bison because… well I presume he must be a criminal if Interpol is after him. In the end Bison is taken down because he wanted to bring his daughter to Bangkok… which doesn’t seem illegal at all in retrospect. I really don’t remember much about the plot to be honest.
  • I mostly just remember Nash’s super rad one-liners. Much like Nic Cage with The Wicker Man, The Legend of Chun-Li had a Chris Klein supercut of his lines circulate in the years following its release because they are so ludicrous. I think it’s only gotten funnier over the years:
  • Additionally, while this was an introduction to our beloved Chris Klein (this, Rollerball, Say It Isn’t So, and Here on Earth), it also introduced BMT to Neal McDonough (this, Timeline, The Guardian, I Know Who Killed Me, 88 Minutes, Fire Down Below, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) and The Black Eyed Peas (namesake of mapl.de.map). Without Taboo playing Vega in this film there likely wouldn’t have been a mapl.de.map. Or at least it would have been named something different.

The first major thing to discuss regarding the rewatch of this film is just how ridiculous it is that this was released to theaters. The film is flat out poorly made. It looks a bit like a SyFy film with B-list actors, shoddy effects, and plot line that takes a lot of suspension of disbelief (mostly the disbelief that it was actually a real film). I guess this is probably why so many people are dismissive of the film. It doesn’t have the looks or actors of some of the biggest flubs, but also doesn’t go to the extreme of a The Room or Birdemic. It’s just in the middle where people merely ask, “Wait, was this really released to theaters?” The answer is yes, over a thousand of them. Why? Because this film cost… wait for it… … … $50 million to make so they kinda had to release it. This had to be some kind of financial scam. It makes absolutely no sense. This looks like a $10 million picture at most. Where did the money go?! Follow the money!

The second thing to note is that Chris Klein delivers. It is pure joy when he is on the screen. The most unfortunate thing about the film is that he is the third biggest character after Bison and Chun-Li, so doesn’t get as much screen time as one would hope. But boy does he put in the BMT work. Beyond his lines my favorite thing I rediscovered about the film is just how bad of a cop his character is. He constantly screws everything up. The best scene is when he and fellow cop Moon Bloodgood are supposed to be following Balrog and he inexplicably takes the opportunity to totally make out with Bloodgood (rad). While doing that Balrog switches cars and they lose him… all because he wanted to cop a feel. It’s pretty great. Without Chun-Li he would have just fucked around for a few days and not solved a single thing.

Finally, I had really forgotten how ridiculous the entire plot is. Back then we had a hard and fast rule to not focus on the plot, but in the age of close-watching that is no longer the case. Listen to this: We have M. Bison, a ruthless criminal slumlord, who takes Chun-Li’s father hostage. Years later Chun-Li goes to Bangkok to join forces with the Order of the Web and take revenge on Bison. Learning that Bison is importing something called the White Rose, Chun-Li goes to stop him (presuming it’s something illicit and could bring down his enterprise if he’s caught shipping it in). After the White Rose arrives it’s discovered that it’s Bison’s daughter, who he imbued with his conscience in a satanic exercise during her birth. She is the yang to his yin, basically. Chun-Li then murders him. Wait, what?! I don’t understand. I get that Bison is a criminal that should be brought to justice, but the White Rose is totally tangential to that. She could have went to his house and fought him literally any time… why wait for the White Rose to even appear? It was set up as if it was some major illegal shipment that they would nail him for and in the process fight him, but instead it turned out to be mostly legal (if they had her papers in order). But instead of waiting for another chance they then follow him to his compound and go ahead and kill him in the most gruesome way possible (Chun-Li quite literally kicks Bison’s head 180 degrees around to the other side of his body). It’s one of the best worst plotlines I can remember. The White Rose is a classic McGuffin and McGuffins are already lazy, but this one is even half-assed. A half-assed McGuffin!

Overall, this will stand as the most BMT of the first batch of HoFers. A film that is beloved by us, but by no one else. At a time when we were still somewhat beholden to a couple bad movie sources, this was an important separation. Something that was truly our own to love and cherish. I was happy to find that many of the things that we loved at the time continue to hold up today and many of the things we hold dear in today’s BMT world (close watching the motivation of the characters, settings, etc.) would be gangbusters as well. Fun watch and really, really, really, really, really, really, really not a good film.

Jamie out.

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