Survival is no game.
Namco's highly popular video game franchise Tekken is finally brought to life on the silver screen! The live-action movie adaptation features the familiar story setting, characters, and their distinctive martial arts styles from the famous fighting game series. Set in a dystopian future where corporations have replaced governments, the fantasy action movie focuses on the Iron Fist Tournament where fighters battle each other to death until only one is standing. A young fighter with a dark secret enters this deadly competition with the aim to avenge his mother's death and confront his evil dad and grandpa. Dwight Little (Brandon Lee's Rapid Fire) directs an ensemble cast that includes Jon Foo (House of Fury), Luke Goss (Hellboy II), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat), and Cung Le (Bodyguards and Assassins), with fight choreography by Dion Lam (Doom, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li).
I don't know anything about Tekken (the game). I was always a Mortal Kombat kid, and others were Street Fighter kids. By the time Tekken had come around, all arcades local to me were closing down or being replaced with dancing games and the like, so I never had a chance to actually play the thing. Sure it hit the PS2 but by that time I had no desire to really check it out. I don't get to play many games anymore, and when I do it's usually something like Galaga or Phoenix. So with that in mind, this review is based solely on what I watched. I don't know how accurate the representations of the characters were and frankly I don't care. I'm here for the action.
(screenshot from the game that I've never played)
It's sometime in a post-global war future and the corporations run everything, including governments. Eight companies divided up the world, with the Americas going to the largest of them all - Tekken. Each year the companies put on a fight for the punters involving all the best fighters from each corporation, the "Iron Fist" tournament, and this year Tekken will be the host country.
Our main character, Jin Kazama (Jon Foo), is running through the derelicts outside Tekken city known as The Anvil being shot at by renegades and military types, all to the tune of some meathead nu-metal wrestling music. There are posters of the Tekken leader Heihachi Mishima (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) hanging everywhere with the motto "Strength Through Order" emblazoned on them, so you know this is some sort of 1984 future we are dealing with. It's a pretty exciting start to the movie, with Jin bolting along roof tops under the lights of following helicopters and eventually Jin escapes.
He goes to meet a crazy underground technology dealer and offers him a device he has just stolen from the Tekken corporation. Getting a reasonable price for his wares, Jin leaves and goes straight to a bar (though he's like 16 or something) and flaunts his cash around, buying black-market coffee and fruit from another dealer. The end of curfew siren sounds and Jin heads home to his mother who dissaproves of his anti-Tekken runs, no matter how much coffee and oranges it gets him. We have a little emo scene "Is this what father would have wanted?" and Jin bails to go see his bimbo girlfriend. While he gets his end away in an alley, the Tekken military types (they are known as Jacks for some reason. Perhaps jackboots?) smash into both the tech. dealers warehouse and through Jin's mother's roof, yelling at them in Japanese looking for Jin and the stolen wares. Not finding him, the buildings are blown up with missiles from the hovering choppers.
After arriving home to see the devastation Jin has a few flashbacks of his childhood past. Apparently his mother knew martial arts and had taught him from a young age. Jin assumes that Tekken was responsible for the death of his mother so signs himself up for an open fight in the hope of rising to the top and killing the Tekken boss, Heihachi Mishima.
The open call fights are designed to wet the punters appetite before the main tournament and occur in small caged arenas and are televised. Jin gets admitted by former Iron Fist combatant Steve Fox (Luke Goss) and goes up against another former Iron Fist fighter, "Martial Law". Jin gets a few hits in on the guy before going down. But, by the power of his flashbacks, Jin manages to get up and K.O. the guy. Steve Fox is so impressed with the fight he decides to become Jin's manager and get him into the Tekken tournament.
Inside the flashy walls of Tekken - a total contrast to the slums of The Anvil - Mishima's son and security officer Kazuya (Ian Anthony Dale, who played Scorpion in the awesome Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short/preview - watch that now if you haven't) is doing this years roll call of combatants. They are:
- Raven, representing G-Corp - lethal ninjitsu expert and former military intelligence
- Eddie Gordo, from Valencorp - capoeira master and underworld enforcer
- Sergei Dragonov, from Ruscorp - sambo fighter, trained by the defunct Russian military
- Anna Williams and Nina Williams - sisters and assassins, fighting for Eyderdex, and masters of koppo and aikido
- Christie Montiero for Vectrocorp - a skilled mixed martial artist, played by the hot Kelly Overton
- Miguel Rojo - zapote specialist, basically punches them in the head a lot
- Yoshimitsu - master swordsman, wears a full body suit and looks like an android
- Bryan Fury - a power boxer, kempo fighter and current Iron Fist champion, played by Gary Daniels
And with Jin as the "People's Choice", there are ten fighters in this years competition. Jin meets all the combatants who generally give him the cold shoulder, except for Christie Montiero who's just a tart at heart. Jin makes evil eyes at Mishima up in the control room.
The fights in the movie are all good quality, which is of course the main reason anyone is watching this (Kelly Overton's rack not withstanding). Starting with Raven vs. Eddie Gordo, we get to see the skills that the actors bring to the table - all of which I understand actually trained in the martial arts they portray in the movie. Eddie Gordo puts on a good display of his cappoeira skills but is ultimately owned by Raven. Jin is picked for the second fight against Miguel Rojo and strolls in to the ring doing his best Bruce Lee impression. Jin lays the first punch but Miguel ducks and weaves his way around the blows before knocking Jin to the ground. "Do you know where you are? This is Iron Fist!"
Jin gets his second wind and drags Miguel around a bit, but again is flattened to the ground. Through the awesome power of the flashback (a recurring medium), Jin gets a third wind and finally connects some decent blows and dislocates Miguel's shoulder. Fueled with anger, Jin keeps laying into the guy well after the bell rings. This impresses Christie who goes to Jin's room after the fight looking for a screw, though the two go for a dance instead. This scene was made for all the horny sixteen year old boys in the audience as the camera is always panning down to Christie's jiggling arse, revealing the two-inch crack left by her well positioned leather pants. After their date, Jin retires to his room and is attacked by a ninja in the dark. He fends the ninja off but is injured; thankfully Christie hears the scuffle and rescues him, the ninja vanishing.
Round three is the one that had to happen to satisfy even more teenage boys watching - Nina Williams vs. Christie Montiero - and it's a total cat fight in purple and white bikinis. Jin says he is sure that Nina was the ninja that attacked him, so Christie makes the fight personal, with flicking hair and one liners, ultimately flattening Nina.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is always good as a bad guy and this movie is no exception. I can tell without researching that he has been done up to look like his video game character; his eyebrows are so over the top he just has to be. For a megalomaniac that posters the city with his portraits, the guy is rather respectful of the tournament and is annoyed by his son's constant efforts to undermine him. Like a spoiled brat Kazuya has a tantrum, and using his security manager powers orders the Jacks guards to arrest his father. Kazuya declares the rest of the tournament to be fights to the death. He really is the BAD guy in Tekken.
Tekken is a predictable, but enjoyable fighting movie. It's very, very DTV, which makes me all the more surprised that it will be getting a US theatrical release in 2011. A downside to it is it has, as Matt at the Direct to Video Connoisseur would say, a Gary Daniels bait-and-switch. He plays a role almost as small as he does in The Expendables. Ultimately he has a fight with Sergei Dragonov with chains which is pretty brutal, and finally he has a fight with Jin. It is great to see Daniels really putting his kickboxing skills back onto (digital) celluloid. There is a nice sub-plot about his body being half bionic with illegal implants but it's not explored very far. I guess that is the trouble with a movie that has to show ten fighters in the ring in ninety minutes yet still wrap a plot around it all - the fighter you really want to see has to share the ring with the other fighters. I guess that's why anime serial Yu Yu Hakusho spent an entire season of 42 episodes in the ring.
I've no idea if Tekken game fans will enjoy this or if they will get all comic-book-nerd and complain that Bryan Fury's hair was the wrong shade of grey, but as a dumb fight movie it did the job well enough for me.
Sharp and clear, but obviously digital cameras were used. The ususal problems are present; the darks gets consume by grain and the lights get blasted with white.