Tekken: Blood Vengeance (Japan 2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/24/11

Um, yeah. Okay... Huh?

What in the world did I just see? This gorgeous piece of Japanese insanity gives major fan service to the world of Namco's "Tekken" fighting game series, but even the fans will likely find it completely baffling. Series antagonists Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima are searching for the elusive M Cell, which the villainous Heihachi Mishima was developing in a secret lab before his death. (how many times has this guy died?) Jin and Kazuya send out rival sisters Nina Williams and Anna Williams to do their dirty work, and they in turn employ Alisa Bosconovitch and Ling Xiaoyu to do theirs. This involves tracking down and monitoring a high school student named Shin Kamiya, who might have information about the M Cell. The plot is all rather moot and only exists as the slightest framework to hang a bunch of dazzlingly over-the-top fight sequences off of. The entire first hour is completely female dominated, which is quite entertaining, but the final reel devolves into an outrageously silly battle between the three generations of the cursed Mishima bloodline.

It's frustrating that something so delightfully crafted is so devoid of any narrative sense. I'm definitely used to watching incomprehensible Asian films, but this one was severely beginning to test my limits. It reminded me a lot of "FFVII: Advent Children" (2005) in its tone and execution, except about ten times crazier. As with any fighting game franchise, the biggest challenge is how to balance the cast. "Blood Vengeance" only features about a half dozen characters from the series, but they all manage to get a good amount of screen time. No effort was made to bog down the proceedings with cameos from everyone, which might be a disappointment to fans.

To the delight of dirty old men everywhere, the film is really all about the adorable Ling Xiaoyu, and she is wonderful throughout. She's also the only character you can take seriously, as the rest of the characters are all ridiculous and annoying. This is unfortunate, but thankfully there are enough fight scenes to help you forget about that. The fight choreography is superb, and the amount of abuse that the characters heap upon each other is laughably excessive. However, this actually mirrors the video game pretty well. The animation and character design are excellent, and the film looks gorgeous. I really wish "Dead Or Alive" would get a similar treatment, except with a coherent storyline (but who am I kidding here?). Overall, it's not what I was expecting, and while the story is disappointing, the eye candy definitely delivers. At least there aren't any invisible dinosaurs this time.