Director: Dwight H. Little
Writer: Alan B. McElroy
Producer: Steven Paul
Cast: Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ian Anthony Dale, Tamlyn Tomita, Candice Hillebrand, Luke Goss, Gary Daniels, Mircea Monroe, Cung Le, Marian Zapico, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Lateef Crowder, Gary Ray Stearns, Anton Kasabov, Roger Huerta
Running Time: 92 min.
Video game to movie adaptations have something of a dirty reputation. I mean, I’ve lost count of how many times director Paul W. Anderson has suckered audiences (myself included) into spending money on his tepid “Resident Evil” franchise. The live-action version of “Tekken” doesn’t exactly buck the trend but at least it’s not as offensive as some of the genre’s biggest stinkers – “Double Dragon,” anyone?
“Tekken” should feel familiar to game movie fans since it combines the post-apocalyptic future city setting of the “Super Mario Brothers” movie with the flashy costumes and cheesy hairstyles of the live-action “Street Fighter” flick. It also manages to waste the not inconsiderable talents of of folks like former MMA champion Cung Le (“Bodyguards & Assassins); legendary b-movie actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Mortal Kombat”); karate-trained actor Luke Goss (“Blade II,” “Hellboy II”); direct-to-video king Gary Daniels (“The Expendables”); and the bald bad-ass from the “B13” movies, Cyril Raffaelli, who choreographed the fight scenes. If you’re watching “Tekken” to see any of these guys show off their moves or maybe just to witness your favorite game characters in the flesh, this movie delivers just enough for its audience to go home content and nothing more.
In the lead role is Jon Foo, a young actor and martial artist who’s already had the honor of fighting Tony Jaa; he was the sword-wielding Wushu master who attacked Jaa in the burning church scene of “The Protector.” At 5’8″ and baby-faced, John Foo is still a bit too diminutive to come across as “Tekken”‘s Jin Kazama or even as someone who could defeat Gary Daniels. But I’ll give Foo credit as he obviously knows some moves and he’s building an impressive resume which includes the Hong Kong action movie “House of Fury” and a small role in “Universal Soldier: Regeneration.”
Even as a casual fan of the video game, I can tell you that the “Tekken” series has become home to an increasingly complex set of fiction. I mean, they’re on their fifth sequel at this point; and it seems like every game ends with someone being thrown into a volcano only to crawl back out at the start of the next game and announce the Iron Fist tournament is back on. To its credit, the “Tekken” movie seeks to keep things simple: it’s about a dysotopic future where an angry young man with great power must learn the identity of his evil father and crush his tyrannical empire once and for all. Yup, it’s basically “Star Wars” with a fighting tournament.
Though the film is stuffed to its seams with fight scenes and actors who look like they stepped right out of the video game, nearly everything about “Tekken” underwhelms. This is due in large part to a cornball script and shoddy editing. We get plenty of fight scenes and most of our actors clearly know martial arts, but the camera rarely stays still long enough to truly capture the action and the editor is constantly cutting to people who are viewing the fights on television. Do we really need to keep seeing the same chubby bartender, who has one thirty second scene at the beginning of the movie, throughout the entire film? All these fools keep cheering “Jin, Jin, Jin” when all we want is to be able to see the matches going on. As such, it’s nearly impossible for me to comment on Cyril Raffaelli’s fight choreography. The movie doesn’t even showcase it enough to make a judgment call.
This film is also unbelievably sexist, which might have worked if this was “Dead or Alive” but it’s “Tekken.” In the game, the character of Christie Monteiro is a Brazilian woman who practices the Brazilian martial arts Capoeria. In the movie, she’s whitewashed into a Hollywood actress who, uh, kinda knows how to fight (?) but mostly just shows off her asscrack. It seems the men in this movie were cast based on their martial arts ability while the women were cast based on their willingness to wear skimpy outfits. If you’re a fan of Nina Williams (one of “Tekken”‘s most popular characters and someone who had her own spin-off game), prepare to be outraged by this movie.
When it comes to video game movies, fans rarely win. The first “Mortal Kombat” movie remains a solid guilty pleasure while I’d say “Silent Hill” is the closest the genre has to come to creating an honest-to-God decent movie, but even that film faltered faltered after its halfway point. The rest of these video game movies either suck so bad they threaten to bore a hole through your head or they merely suck. “Tekken” falls somewhere in the middle: certainly it’s a cheesecake festival with fight scenes that don’t reach their full potential, but at the same time it’s a fairly faithful visual approximation of the game. If all you want is to see some of your favorite characters come to life – in the right costumes even if they’re not the right ethnicity – without having to put any quarters into an arcade cabinet (unless you’re using Red Box, I guess), then “Tekken” is perhaps worth a rental.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10