If you’ve ever wondered where Mario got his bow tie, or why Inky, Blinky and Clyde are so intent on reducing Pac-Man to pixels, then “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” is the movie for you. For the rest, those for whom the idea of manufacturing an origin story for a video-game character seems mildly bonkers, Andrzej Bartkowiak’s film is a long slog with little payoff.
Arcade aficionados, as well as their long-suffering friends, spouses and roommates, will recognize the three-dimensional equivalents of “Street Fighter’s” dramatis personae: Kristin Kreuk as jump-kicking crime fighter Chun-Li, Neal McDonough as crime lord Bison, and Michael Clarke Duncan as his towering henchman Balrog (whose name is right out of “The Lord of the Rings”). To them, the movie adds a pair of detectives on the trail of a mysterious underworld organization called the Shadaloo: Moon Bloodgood as a Hong Kong gang specialist, and Chris Klein as a floppy-haired Interpol agent who looks as if he rents himself out as a Sonny Crockett impersonator.
Chun-Li’s quest to take down Bison is spurred by her father’s kidnapping and abetted by Gen ( Robin Shou), a martial-arts master whose training regimen involves ball bearings, circular saws and the fine art of flailing her arms around until a glowing ball of pinkish energy appears between them.
All of this, of course, is just stuffing, excelsior packed around hand-to-hand skirmishes. But considering that they’re the movie’s sole raison d'être, the fight scenes are surprisingly lame. Bartkowiak gooses the action with wire-work and digital undercranking, but it can’t disguise the rote choreography of scene after scene in which Chun-Li dispatches a herd of attackers with a few well-placed whacks. It doesn’t help that Kreuk looks more like a yoga teacher than a fearsome warrior.
Even with the low expectations “The Legend of Chun Li” engenders, it still somehow manages to be a letdown.