Judge Paul Pritchard has a black belt, but he prefers a rather fetching brown suede belt.
Our review of Tekken (Blu-ray), published July 15th, 2011, is also available.
Survival Is No Game.
"You will regret this."
Facts of the Case
Following decades of war, countries are no longer run by governments but large multinational companies. Of these the largest is Tekken Corp. Headed by Heihachi Mishima (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Mortal Kombat), Tekken Corp. controls North America with a tough regime that sees its troops cracking down on any insurgents in the slums that surround Tekken City.
When his mother is killed in one such raid, Jin Kazama (Jon Foo) swears revenge against the man he holds responsible, Heihachi Mishima. Realizing he has little chance of getting to Heihachi, Jin enters himself as a wild card entry in the "Iron Fist" tournament that the Tekken Corporation is holding. Having defeated renowned fighter Marshall Law (Cung Le) in the preliminary round, Jin teams up with ex-fighter Steve Fox (Luke Goss, Hellboy 2) who offers to assist Jin with his preparations for the tournament. Teaming up with fellow fighter Christie Monteiro (Kelly Overton), Jin must work his way up the ladder to defeat defending champion Bryan Fury (Gary Daniels), while avoiding the suspicions of Kazuya, Heihachi's heir.
If the pantheon of videogame to movie adaptations is hardly a storied one, it has at least been interesting to see how respective directors have tackled bringing their pixelated creations to life. Generally these adaptations have fallen into one of two categories. The first of these is when only the most rudimentary elements of a franchise are used to create a film which otherwise bears little relation to the game that inspired it. Examples of this include Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, and Resident Evil, which with each successive sequel has moved further away from the games' core dynamics. The second approach is to wholly embrace the (often ridiculous) characters and plotting of the videogame, and make a film that follows its plot as closely as possible. Examples of this include Mortal Kombat and Silent Hill. The makers of Tekken—now available on Region B Blu-ray following a protracted release that saw the film barely scrape a theatrical showing—have opted for a third path, which sees the film both embrace and reject key components of the videogame series.
Followers of the series will appreciate that the looks of their favorite characters have been well respected, with Raven, Jin, Law, and Heihachi Mishima being instantly recognizable. The film itself follows a plot that should be familiar to those versed in Tekken-lore. The problem, at least in terms of how successful an adaptation this is, is that the soul of the videogame has been ripped out. Though Jin is front and center, he comes to the screen minus the devil gene that is so important to his character. The same can be applied to each and every character who has made the transition from the console to the big screen. There are no "special" moves, and no gravity defying aerial attacks, the characters are here, but in name only; basically, everything that makes Tekken what it is has gone. That is, with one exception that serves to massively unbalance the movie: Bryan Fury. Just as he is in the games, Bryan is part man, part machine. Thanks to his cybernetic enhancements, he's blessed with superhuman strength. By grounding the rest of the fighters in the real world, and leaving Bryan untouched, Tekken comes dangerously close to slipping into Street Fighter territory. The introduction of weapons-based death matches also feels out of place in the Tekken universe.
Judged as a standalone film, Tekken isn't too bad. At 92 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome, and the opening half of the film moves along at a brisk pace. Following a first act that sees Jin enter himself as a wild card into the Iron Fist tournament, Tekken settles down for a second act that focuses primarily on action. Choreographed by Cyril Raffaelli (best known for his work on The Transporter), the fight scenes are, at times, surprisingly brutal. Utilizing a number of MMA fighters, the participants in Tekken both look and act the part. Some of this good work is undone by a propensity for fast cuts, which is becoming an increasing problem in modern action cinema.
Anyone expecting much in the way of character depth or motivation, not to mention plot, is surely in the wrong place, as each of these ingredients are—as one would expect—found desperately wanting. The plot follows two threads, with the main storyline focusing on Jin's quest for revenge following his mother's murder. The second revolves around the power struggle that plays out for control of the Tekken Corporation. Neither is satisfying, as Jin's thirst for vengeance lacks focus. Too often he's distracted—most often by female pugilists—leaving it questionable just how angry he really is. Likewise, the battle for control of Tekken Corp. between Hiehachi and his son, Kazuya, contains plenty of bluster, but little else. In fact, so bad is the plot, that, beyond the confines of the tournament itself, the writers clearly struggled with what to do with the characters, leading to an unsatisfying final act that drags—despite two climactic showdowns—as it fumbles for direction; never is this more evident than when the action moves away from the arena, and we get bogged down in poorly realized gunfights that have no place here. Character interactions—at least those not involving fisticuffs—are dire, and it's not by chance that the director focuses his camera on Kelly Overton's shapely behind at every opportunity. Kudos to the costume department, too, for ensuring that her rear end is exposed gratuitously.
Extras are limited to a few interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage is primarily aimed at the fight choreography. The Blu-ray disc receives a solid if unspectacular 2.40:1 1080p transfer. Colors are vibrant, sometimes unnaturally so, while darker scenes often contain a mild veneer of grain. The picture is generally sharp, with good levels of detail. Blacks levels are excellent. The 5.1 DTS-HD track offers a good mix, with rear speakers being utilized well, and each and every sound crisp and clear.
In the grand scheme of things, Tekken bests both Street Fighter movies with ease, but lacks the goofy charms of Mortal Kombat. Had it embraced its roots more openly the film may well have offered more excitement. As it is, Tekken is just an average action flick, with nothing to distinguish it from the rest of the crowd. It's watchable for sure—as a piece of no-brainer entertainment—but beyond interested gamers, the film holds little appeal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Optimum Releasing
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