Tekken (2010)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/5/11
Stunt Choreographer: Cyril Raffaelli
Cast: John Foo, Kelly Overton, Luke Goss, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ian Anthony Dale, Gary Daniels, Gary Stearns, Lateef Crowder

For some masochistic reason that I can't explain, I decided to spend my Saturday night watching a double bill of "Tekken" and "The King Of Fighters" (2009). As a fighting game adaptation, "Tekken" is one of the better attempts at the genre - especially when compared to KOF which manages to do EVERYTHING wrong.

I've always wondered how they would make a movie based on a video game that features a giant farting bear. Thankfully, the deadly flatulent beast is nowhere to be found, and the film focuses more on the 2nd generation roster. Sadly, this also means that my favorite character, Jun Kazama, is woefully under-represented. I've never paid much attention to the "Tekken" storylines, but they mostly boil down to a "King Of The Iron Fist" martial arts tournament hosted by a powerful and evil businessman named Heihachi Mishima (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). The tournament attracts fighters from all over the world to compete, and the film focuses on Jin Kazama's (John Foo) quest to avenge the death of his mother. Unfortunately, Heihachi's overly ambitious son, Kazuya (sinister Ian Anthony Dale), takes over the tournament and turns it into a bloody death match. Before Kazuya can kill him, Jin and Christie Monteiro (Kelly Overton) escape from the arena, but are soon recaptured and forced to fight. The outcome is predictable and the open-ended conclusion offers little resolution and leaves plenty of room for a sequel.

The film is attractive and well made, but what sets it apart is Cyril Raffaelli's ("Banlieue 13") flashy fight choreography. He and his team contribute some fun and exciting parkour action as well. The film also benefits from having a very athletic cast that can handle most of their own stunts. Seasoned players like John Foo, Gary Daniels, Lateef Crowder, and Gary Stearns all have martial arts backgrounds and know how to hold their own. An unfortunate side effect of this is that they aren't the greatest actors, and it doesn't help that they're stuck with some really bad dialog. Typical for an American film, no matter how good the choreography and execution may be, weak camera work and overly choppy editing ruin the flow and emotional impact of the action scenes. Not surprisingly, the behind-the-scenes footage of Raffaelli's team practicing and goofing around offers more thrills and excitement than anything found in the finished product. But the film is still fun to watch and moves at a decent pace. The action is certainly better than what most domestic films have to offer these days.

The film is definitely male oriented, and the female characters are handled with little regard. The romantic angle between Jin and Christie is forced and awkward, and serves absolutely no purpose. Their dialog exchanges are also some of the worst in the film. Christie is forcefully presented as a sex symbol rather than a serious fighter, and her outfits are tailored for visual seduction and maximum titillation. Not unusual for the genre, but still distasteful. Her one and only fight scene is against Nina Williams, which is predictable, but disappointing. Both Nina and Anna Williams are a complete joke, and not nearly as formidable as their video game counterparts, which is unfortunate. Their outfits are also quite silly, but at least the filmmakers made an attempt to honor the aesthetics of the source material, whereas so many other film adaptations don't even bother. Overall, I'd say that it's comparable to "Mortal Kombat" (1995) in scope and execution, except that MK's fight scenes and set pieces are much more entertaining.