Iron Fisted! The Lone Gamer’s Tekken Movie Review
Does this fighter hit or miss?
Okay, I’ve seen it. After all this time, I’ve seen the Tekken live-action movie. It’s been months after the release of Tekken 6, the latest game in the series, the movie came out in Japan without much fanfare and surprisingly little news. Now it’s here and I guess all that’s left to be said is… how bad is it?
Surprisingly though… it’s actually NOT bad.
Tekken is what it is- a mixed martial arts revenge flick. Fortunately, thanks to the overall plot and character relationships, this IS a Tekken story, not just some generic beat ’em up flick with the Tekken brand pasted on it. That said, this isn’t a Tekken most fans will recognize either. Hardcore purists though will howl at the many liberties and omissions- Where’s my fave fighter? Why isn’t so-and-so there? Why did he/she get beat so quick? They changed what? EH? Well, sorry to say, anyone going into the theater looking for Tekken trappings like boxing kangaroos, giant robots or Devil Genes will be disappointed. Only about one fourth of the game’s roster of fighters appear in the film as well. Just accept that this is adapted from the Tekken game and not a canon addition to the game series, and just move on.
The movie takes a more gritty, real-world(?) approach to the storyline, breaking away from most of the supernatural and more fantastic elements from the games, instead focusing on the core plot of the Mishima Bloodline, the Mishima Zaibatsu AKA Tekken Corporation and Jin Kazama’s quest for vengeance. This more back-to-basics approach results in a solid, pretty easy to understand martial arts adventure, at the very least.
Learn how Jin Kazama got those rad gloves. No, really!
Set in a ravaged near-future earth that is just recovering from a time known as the ‘Terror Wars’, the setting of Tekken isn’t a nice place. There are no more governments as the world is now divided into sectors (rather than nations), each one controlled by one of six megacorporations, all collectively known as Iron Fist. The most powerful corporation is the Tekken Corporation (as opposed to just the Mishima Zaibatsu), which controls the territories that include the United States. Tekken is headed by its fierce but strangely honorable CEO, Heihachi Mishima (Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa).
In ‘The Anvil’, one of the many impoverished, danger-filled zones of Tekken City, lives Jin Kazama (Jon Foo), a streetwise youth who works part-time as a runner for smuggled tech. Talented in martial arts due to training from his mom, Jun (Tamlyn Tomita), Jin is often asked to join the underground resistance against the Tekken Corporation’s oppression against the civilians. Jin though would rather just do his own thing and use his earnings to buy little luxuries for his nearest and dearest. Read: This guy will run through freakin’ bullet storms to get his girlfriend a bite of chocolate. What a guy!
Unfortunately, his latest smuggling job inadvertently leads Tekken’s secret police, the ‘Jackhammers’, led by Heihachi Mishima’s son, Kazuya (Ian Anthony Dale), to his clients in the underground resistance, and then later to his own home. One explosion later, Jin’s an orphan seeking revenge on the one he believes responsible, Heihachi Mishima. It doesn’t take long for Jin to enter Tekken’s martial arts tournament itself, pitting himself against the world’s most dangerous fighters and making him an unwitting pawn in a power struggle within the Tekken Corporation.
Jin (Jon Foo) faces off against Miguel (Roger Huerta).
That’s basically what the movie’s about- there’s no big scheme to take over the world (Tekken is already IN control), no secret genetic experiments creating super soldiers using the fighters’ DNA, no mystical demon lord waiting behind the wings (Kazuya fills that in as the film’s biggest douche already). Jin just wants his pound of flesh, and along the way other characters either side with him or get in his way. But thankfully, the movie works since it rarely slows down with lots of hard-hitting action, some steamy sexy scenes with some hot ladies, and even more action.
Did I say there was action? Tekken is basically about a fighting tournament, and that saying it has a LOT of full-contact, brutal and bloody fighting. In comparison, the fights in other fighting game movies look either tame or comical. The only exception being the one girl-fight, which suffers a bit from too-quick editing and a truncated finish. Generally, while the fight choreography is pretty good and fierce, I do have one big gripe- too many weapons! Really, this isn’t Soulcalibur, and should have limited battling with tools considerably.
Overall, the acting ranges from good to adequate- adequate being that most of the characters appear just to look bad-ass or fight. Luke Goss’s scrappy Steve Fox (the fanboy in me however wishes that he was Paul Phoenix instead), is a welcome sympathetic presence to Jin, while Ian Dale’s Kazuya and Gary Daniels’ Bryan Fury are properly imperious and menacing. I don’t think they could have gotten a more Heihachi-ish Heihachi than Mr. Tagawa-san. Generally, the script is pretty tight and the dialogue never too hammy or over-the-top, so I never found myself cringing at any point.
The production’s casting expended some effort at least to have many of the appearing fighters look like their in-game counterparts. Raven (Darren Dewitt Henson), Eddy Gordo (Lateef Crowder) and Anna Williams (Marian Zapico) for example, look like they stepped off a PS3. On the other hand, Candice Hildebrandt’s Nina Williams, hotness aside, is dressed in an outfit that makes her look like kinky cosplay.
“Psst… Sergei… your top don’t match your pants, man…”
Perhaps two characters who will be debated on are Christie Monteiro and Kazuya Mishima. Kelly Overton’s female fighter is not Brazilian, and not really a Capoeira fighter like in the game. However she’s definitely gorgeous plus has a bigger part in the story than she ever had in the game so I think it balances out.
As for Kazuya, I think that Ian Anthony Dale does resemble Tekken’s main bad boy in my opinion, with his slicked-back hair, liking for long coats and sinister countenance (the little scar on the cheek is a subtle but nice touch)- although apparently they found a need for him to have a mustache and beard to twirl evilly. He’s out and out a villain here instead of the anti-hero in the game.
The most crucial role, however, is that of Jin Kazama, and thankfully Jon Foo acquits himself well in the sullen, angry role of the revenge-seeking pretty boy. As a martial artist himself in real life, Foo performs admirably in the many bone-cracking fight scenes, and you will feel this guy earns every hard-won match.
Hot female assassins? Check. Too bad Anna doesn’t see much action (in the arena).
In terms of visuals, the movie adopts a pretty bleak look- most of it is set at night, or in shadows with spotlights or gasoline fires, or neon lights. It’s like a low-budget Blade Runner world, with gun-toting goons in kendo masks running around, the odd CG hovercraft whizzing by and some rather kitschy prop-filled stages complete with properly chirpy commentators to simulate different settings for the various martial arts bouts. Overall though, what budget they had for the movie is used cleverly to make a distinct look for the film and a reasonable emulation of the game’s iconic characters.
Tekken will almost surely be compared to the two other (more or less) decent fighting game-to-movie translations in the past, Mortal Kombat and DOA. Whereas MK focused on its supernatural mythology and DOA on cheesecake, Tekken’s strength is in the actual fighting- down and dirty MMA-style beatdowns- and a fast-paced story with a few turns that will have you glued to the screen for the duration.
So how does Tekken rack up against the competition? I’ll go out and say it- Mortal Kombat has been the best fighting game-to-movie translation all this time… but now it has a challenger that strikes hard with pretty solid punch. Tekken’s gritty action scenes and fast-paced story and distinct visuals make it one of the better videogame movies and overall a pretty good martial arts flick even if you took out the game references.
You don’t have to know the entire roster of fighters or have to listen to hours of exposition to watch and enjoy this action flick. Go in with not so many high expectations but get ready to set your adrenaline on high. This isn’t Shakespeare. It’s not rocket science. THIS IS IRON FIST!
Tekken is now showing in Manila theaters. The film will have a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray release in other territories.
One last note: There IS an extra scene after the credits roll, so if you have a bit of patience, sit back and wait for it.
This entry was posted on August 6, 2010 at 7:43 am and is filed under Fighting Games, Game to Movies, Game-related Events, Gaming, Movies, My Stuff, PS3, Tekken, Tekken 6, Xbox360 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.