Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ian Anthony Dale
US DVD: 19 Jul 2011
We all know that videogames always make the best movies, right? Remember Doom? What about Double Dragon? Universally regarded as classics, if I’m not mistaken.
Tekken, based on the successful series of fighting games from Namco, continues the long line of questionable videogame inspired movies. All in all, Tekken feels like a film that is ten years behind the times. From the nu-metal score, to the day-glo color palate, the movie feels stale and dated, despite the fact that it came out in 2010.
A voiceover tells you that the year is 2039. There was a war, governments fell, and corporations swooped in to fill the void and took over. Instead of countries people are now citizens of companies, apparently. Eight corporations rule the world. Tekken is the mightiest of them, and comprises what used to be the United States. For some reason, every year these new rulers hold a martial arts tournament called Iron Fist. Their motivations are far from clear.
This is one place where videogame adaptations commonly run into problems. In the confines of a game, especially a game based solely on one-on-one combat, you can get away with little to no plot. You can say, hey, there was a nondescript war, some companies took over, and they have a fighting tournament, and no one will seriously question you. Things like character, story, background, and reason, elements that a movie desperately needs, are easily glossed over. When a movie attempts to flesh these sorts of things out, issues arise.
Tekken is vaguely post-apocalyptic, and vaguely dystopian. Posters on the walls spout watered down Orwellian propaganda, like “Strength Through Order”, and such. The hero, Jin Kazama (Jon Foo, The Protector) is a street-wise hustler. He is a skilled fighter and acrobatic escape artist who plies his trade in Anvil, a favela-style slum outside of Tekken City. Various factions and groups try to recruit Jin to help in their anti-corporate reindeer games, but Jin is no joiner, he’s a loner, out for number one.
Saying that Jin is a loner is not entirely accurate, he loves his mother (Tamlyn Tomita, Daniel-san’s love interest from The Karate Kid: Part II). But when Tekken blows her up for no apparent reason, and we’re talking really blows her up, like with missiles, Jin gets pissed, and fights his way into the Iron Fist tournament so he can kill Heihachi Mishima (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa with some incredible, wing-like hair), the head of Tekken. The primary subplot involves a power struggle between Mishima and his son, Kazuya (Ian Anthony Dale), a subplot that involves little substance outside of a few contrived plot reveals.
In the tournament Jin faces off against all of the characters from the Tekken games, gets a forced love interest, Christie Monteiro (Kelly Overton), and discovers some secrets about himself and his mother. Most of the later part of the film is taken up with poorly edited fights full of awkward flashbacks of Jin’s mom teaching him how to fight and giving him useful fighting advice like, “If you can still breathe, you can still fight”, and teaching him to never give up. There’s a ton of cheesy melodrama before you get to the actual climax, but by that point Jin is bleeding out of his nipple, so Tekken has that going for it.
All in all, the whole package is underwhelming. This ain’t no Bloodsport. Hell, this ain’t no Mortal Combat. Blank, leaden acting, accents that come and go shot to shot, and poorly written dialogue combine for an overly serious, unintentionally comical action film. But it’s not funny enough, even accidentally, to be worth watching. There’s a rock punching cyborg, people fighting with a chain wrapped in barbwire, an insane amount of butt-cleavage courtesy of Overton’s lace-up pants, and plot holes so monstrous you could use them as swimming pools.
The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes with a digital download, for those of you absolutely must have a copy of Tekken with you at all times, but for the rest of you, the only bonus feature is a 51 minute episode of the Discovery Channel show Stunt Stars. Obviously, this particular episode focuses on the stunts from Tekken, which is most notable because French fight choreographer Cyril Raffaelli served on the film.
One of the hottest young stunt performers in the business right now, Raffaelli is in films like District B-13 and Live Free or Die Hard, and has done stunt work and choreography for the likes of The Transporter films and The Incredible Hulk, among others. Interesting enough for a while, especially when they break down the anatomy of a fight scene through the many steps of preparation, the show runs out of steam. There’s a ton of superfluous fluff that you can tell is only there to fill space, and it would have been better served if the show were half an hour instead.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article