Fifteen years after Jean-Claude Van Damme effectively killed off a potential franchise of films in the original Street Fighter movie, the classic video game returns to the big screen in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, a rebooting of the story which now focuses on the mysterious female character of Chun-Li rather than the muscle bound General Guile. Directed by Polish action director Andrzej Bartkowiak, it stars Smallville star Kristin Kreuk as Chun-Li, a concert pianist and martial arts expert searching for her father, who has been captured by the evil underworld figure, Bison. The film, which also stars Chris Klein, Neal McDonough and Michael Clarke Duncan, has a score from a most unlikely source: New York-based composer Stephen Endelman, whose film work to date has included such classy projects as The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain, Bride of the Wind and Evelyn.
This is his first foray into the action genre, and if this score is anything to go by, he clearly has the chops to succeed across multiple genres. Endelman's action writing just oozes cool; from the growling brass lines, the piano scales bubbling underneath the orchestra, the rambunctious string runs, the rattling Oriental percussion, and the understated, yet appropriate electronic enhancements, Endelman's score has a life and energy and vitality which is really excellent. The action and suspense cues - like the opening "Chun-Li vs. Bison", "Bison Takes Over", "The Montage", "The Break In", "Running to Vega", "Gen Attacked", "Following Balrog", and several others - are genuinely exciting and musically interesting, often making use of unusual and unexpected instrumental performances, highlighting Endelman's engaging mastery of his orchestra and his hitherto undiscovered talent for this kind of musical expression.
The main theme, heard in the "Opening Credits" (which is not the first cue on the album) begins heroically, before segueing into a gorgeous, expressive erhu piece. The erhu theme is recapitulated later in cues such as the lovely "Gen is Reborn" the bittersweet "Leaving Home" and the conclusive "Going Home" to excellent effect. The quieter moments of the score are often highlighted by breathy bamboo flutes, soft string lines, or solo piano melodies (clearly alluding to the main character's history as a concert pianist); "Mom Dies" is a gorgeous example of this. Other moments occasionally recall John Barry's writing on the Bruce Lee Game of Death movie, especially in his use of wooden percussion under the orchestra in cues such as "Impress Me" and "Chun-Li Training".
One off cues, such as the ultra-groovy finger-snapping "Arrival in Bangkok" or the similar-sounding "Bathroom Fight", just add to the score's general appeal. This a surprisingly good score that belies its second rate action movie roots, and will certainly appeal to those who like creative orchestral writing rather than samey synth loops in their action scores; similarly, it will appeal to those who thought Stephen Endelman was only a `serious' composer, who couldn't let loose and have fun.