Anchor Bay // 2010 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 15th, 2011
From the streets, a warrior has risen.
Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter. Dead or Alive. All terrible. Time for Tekken to get a piece of that failure pie.
It's 2039 and "The Terror Wars" have led to the collapse of all of the world governments. Only mega-corporations are left standing, the most powerful of which is the Tekken corporation, the CEO of which is the enigmatic Heihachi. Our story picks up at the beginning of the Iron Fist Tournament, a fighting competition sponsored by Tekken for no other reason than to give some street urchin the chance to inspire the downtrodden and usurp power.
Young rabble-rouser Jin Kazama (Jon Foo) obliges and after a series of tragedies befall him, he joins the Iron Fist for a shot at taking down the dirtbags responsible for waxing so many of his loved ones. Also, Eddie Gordo is still a cheap a**hole.
My summer of 1997 was dominated by Tekken 3. We were all working at a summer camp and spent the after-hours battling each other endlessly in custom tournaments. It was a revelation. So I bring some hefty Tekken affection with me going into this feature film adaptation.
Not that I was expecting to be blown away. After Street Fighter so effectively Dragon Punched me in the nuts in 1994, and subsequent attempts at adapting video game fighters into film franchises cratered, I've developed a hard outer shell, ensuring my expectations are hovering somewhere around absolute zero on the Kelvin scale. Yet, meager as they were, my standards were dashed with adroit swiftness by the incompetence and incoherence of Tekken.
I'm not looking for much in my video game fighter movies: 1) some classic characters I recognize, 2) a plot that bears a passing resemblance to the source material's mythology, and 3) some nifty fight scenes. Alas...
1) Rest assured there are characters from the video game here, but for the most part they're either lame and obscure or total bastardizations of who they're based on. Aside from the three principals (Jin, Heihachi and Kazuma); you've got Eddie Gordo, Nina and Anna Williams, Christie Monteiro, Raven, Yoshimitsu, Marshall Law, Bryan Fury and Sergei Dragunov. Icon Paul Phoenix gets a name-drop from a broadcast announcer and series mainstays like King, Lei Wulong, Julia Chang and my man Gun-Jack are nowhere to be found. Marshall Law is turned into a roid-raging douchebag and Steve Fox (Luke Goss) is merely an exposition machine. At least they got Heihachi's hairdo right, though, to be honest, the move from video game to feature film reveals this is an astoundingly stupid look.
2) The Tekken mythology is hopelessly complicated and involves crap like making a deal with the Devil before battling paraplegics and giant panda bears. I have nothing but sympathy for the screenwriter tasked with turning that into a functional screenplay. Writer Alan B. McElroy gave it his best shot, but even with the standard-issue (and woefully overdone) Super Tournament Awesome! genre convention, the plot of Tekken is a clunker: secret illegitimate children, a corporate power struggle, a subculture of hipster resistance programmers trying to take it to The Man, some disposable sexual tension, and lots and lots of noise.
3) All of that above? I can move past it, if Tekken delivered righteous beatdowns, which of course it does not. The few glimmers of decent fighting can be attributed to choreographer Cyril Raffaelli, but there just wasn't enough juice to compensate for the immense shortfall of the other elements. Also, I've recently come to the conclusion that martial arts films staged in a tournament setting lead to boring fight scenes.
If you must persist in pursuing this folly, Anchor Bay's put together a solid Blu-ray. The 2.35:1, 1080p holds its own nicely against the onslaught of ADHD overproduction, blasting out the full array of stylized color work. Things get dodgy during the wide-angled shots of the CGI-enabled dystopian future, but overall it's a solid transfer. Sound comes from a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that punches your ears with the loud score and typical pugilistic sound effects. Extras: a surprisingly lengthy featurette on the stunts, DVD copy, and a digital copy.
I'm all for hard-R action films, but Tekken's restricted rating is befuddling. This is something that would appeal to a PG-13 crowd and the R rating isn't even exploited.
One day we'll get a coherent actioner based on a video game brawler. I'm holding out hope for Shaq Fu.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy