'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li'

By Denise Martin

Do you want to talk about: "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li"?

Or do you just want to play the new Street Fighter IV video game? It would be cool to see the origins of power-kicker Chun-Li -- the best character to be, hands down -- but someone needs to explain why Ryu and Ken do not appear in the film. No live-action tiger uppercut? Really? It just might be worth $10 to see why not. (Friday) (20th Century Fox)

Anyone who remembers the godawful 1994 Jean Claude Van Damme/Raul Julia film based on the ancient video game Street Fighter will be shocked at how much better the new film built around the game's characters is.

No, it's not particularly good. The villains are either ninja-clones or generic black-suited thugs. The story is a straight vengeance tale about a daughter seeking to punish the man who murdered her dad. But the casting works, the settings (Bangkok and Hong Kong) are exotic and the martial arts brawls professionally mounted.

Kristin Kreuk, a mere slip of a thing from TV's Smallville, plays Chun Li, concert pianist-martial artist. I'm guessing she never got a bad review in her life. The lady kicks butt.

But when she was a child, her dad, a fellow mixed up with mobsters, disappeared. Now an adult, Chun Li must go to Bangkok and face her destiny and the baddie who took daddy.

That would be Neal McDonough, blue-eyed, white-haired heavy for our times. This outing, he tries a wee Irish accent in playing this ruthless mob boss. The accent, alas, she comes and goes. Begorrah!

Michael Clarke Duncan is the man-mountain chief-henchman. Chris Klein, taking a shot at showing us some edge, is an Interpol agent on the bad guys' trail and ultra-hottie Moon Bloodgood is his busty Bangkok cop counterpart.

"This guy walks through raindrops" Klein's cop tells the hot cop to impress her. There's this "Order of the Web" which needs to train Chun Li (Robin Shou is the mystical master), a "White Rose" that plays into the plot and serious beat-downs. The violence is neck-snapping, take-a-man's-gun-and-shoot-him-in-the-ear graphic. Did I mention the lesbian bar pick-up scene? Nice.

The dialogue, some of it Chun Li's voice-over, is arch and generic, but appropriately so – "Everywhere I looked, there was crime without punishment."

The bad guy gets the best lines. Always.

"Your father has been the milk of my business. But even milk has an expiration date!"

The director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, did the film of the game Doom, so don't go getting your hopes up. At least he didn't Uwe Boll himself this time.

I'd say this is roughly 20 times better than the first Street Fighter movie. It's still a waste of time, but unlike the game, it's over in 95 minutes. Nobody will accuse you of wasting your life.