Starring: Jon Foo, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kelly Overton, Luke Goss
Directed By: Dwight H. Little
For the life of me, I should have already learned my lesson on watching these flicks given the recent streak of flops and missteps, but I couldn't help myself with seeing the Tekken movie, based on one of my favorite brawling games of all time. Yes, Bandai Namco actually gave the go signal to a studio called Crystal Sky Productions to produce a live action movie based on their hit mixed martial art 3D fighting game franchise, and how did that fare out? Not too well I'm afraid, but I got to give the makers of the movie their just dues for trying to make a film based on the series alone. I'll get more into the details as I roll along with this review. For now, just make sure to brace yourselves for some spoilers.
There's no doubt about it. Tekken is another misstep in the direction games are going in order to make the transition into film. Honestly, I didn't want to get my hopes up that I'd be seeing another great videogame movie adaptation like that of the first Mortal Kombat movie, but there I was - hopeful and optimistic that something good might happen with this film, especially with a franchise as big as Tekken. Looking at it another way, I was hoping it could also end up somewhat like the 90's Street Fighter live action movie. Even if the Jean Claude Van Damme starring vehicle failed to live up to the franchise's potential, it developed a cult following, especially with the campy lines and dialogue present throughout the entire film, not to mention the presence of the late great Raul Julia as M.Bison. Needless to say, I expected either one of these fates to happen to Tekken, especially having an all star line-up of martial artists and actors who look like they know their stuff about fights and beating people up. Sadly, the end result is mediocre at best, and anyone looking for a swell beatdown akin to that of the games may come off disappointed from the trailer of the movie alone.
Going to the film itself, I saw it with a friend on premiere night yesterday, and we really tried our darn best to be hopeful as possible that the film wouldn't suck or meet below our expectations. Unfortunately, as soon as the lights in the theater dimmed and the film proper began, everything we've come to know and appreciate about Namco's prized fighter changed before us. Gone were the flashy fights and character developments fans of the franchise have taken years to understand. Instead, viewers of the film are presented with what is a mash-up story at best, taking the basic premise of Tekken and infusing it with a completely new plot that centers on one character's quest for vengeance in a post apocalyptic world set in 2039, namely that of Jin Kazama, played by talented martial arts actor Jon Foo. The man who knows his Wushu also starred as Ryu in the short film "Street Fighter Legacy", and I was lucky enough to meet the actor a few weeks before the movie's worldwide official release. Despite looking intimidating when he fights, he's actually a nice and humble guy in person, and getting his first major starring role in Tekken gives him more exposure to the public. He has the build and aggressive youth look needed to play a character like Jin, and the moves he dishes out in the movie are real convincing enough. Acting wise, it's real acceptable, but working around a script that's far from what I know from the source material makes it hard to convince me that this is the same Jin Kazama character I know and use in the Tekken games. Great effort I have to say for Jon, but this role could have been tailored even better for him.
Many of you looking forward to seeing your favorite characters from the game in this film are going to get really disappointed to find out that only a select few made the cut, with around less than 20 recognizable fighters making it in the movie roster. Raven, The Williams Sisters, Miguel Rojo (played by Ex-UFC star Roger Huerta), Marshall Law, Raven, Bryan Fury, Dragunov, Eddy Gordo, Yoshimitsu and Christie Monteiro (btw, Kelly OvertOn is HOT!) all made the list as combatants, while Steve Fox and Jun Kazama serve as mentor figures to Jin. Kazuya Mishima and his father, Heihachi Mishima, feature in as the heads of the Tekken empire. Unfortunately, the iconic hate-hate relationship between father and son that I and many players have familiarized ourselves with in the games failed to make the transition to the big screen properly, and here we see a Kazuya, played by Ian Anthony Dale (who also played Scorpion in the recent MK Rebirth trailer), having a decent yet strained relationship with his father Heihachi, played by the legendary Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa of Mortal Kombat fame. This version of Kazuya is the heir to the Tekken empire who won't be replacing his father until the old man tells him he's ready, and that practically builds the younger Mishima up as the primary antagonist of the movie. Mr. Dale plays a mean bad guy, but he looks and acts nothing like Kazuya. On the other hand, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa went all the way just to play the role of Heihachi, going as far as to get the wild hairstyle on him! The man who played Shang Tsung was a fine villain, but in Tekken, he was downright hilarious as Heihachi! He doesn't fight and is more of a figurehead in this movie. Plus, I couldn't get over the 'do, and once you see the flick, you'll know what I mean! Anyway, that's the overall cast featured in the film, and anyone looking for other favorites like King, Lei Wulong, Lee Chaolan, and Julia Chang will have to contend with their absence in this movie. The Jacks were here... but they weren't the JACKS I knew from the games. They were more like the Tekken Force to be exact. Yes, I know that's disappointing news to Tekken fans, but for an hour and a half film, you can only do so much.
Dwight H. Little's Tekken seems to neglect so many plotlines from the Tekken series that it breaks my heart to see this film hype in so much yet executes it poorly. There have been six canonical games in existence already, and everything mashes up to a story that is too typical and basic to even be considered a faithful translation of the premise we know from Namco's prized fighter. I will give props to the director and the cast for making this film seriously though. They really looked like they put 100% effort on the stunts and action, and the fight choreography was another saving factor for this film. It was realistic enough to enjoy, and everyone of the combatants look like they mean business. I don't think any of the fights were fake. In fact, they look extremely painful, especially when you have EX-UFC fighters and real life martial artists thrown into the mix and laying the smackdown on each other. As for the setting alone, I know Tekken is futuristic, but I never passed for it as Post apocalyptic. The props were so Blade Runner like that I almost didn't think this was a Tekken movie. Bottomline, watch this with a grain of salt if you're the diehard Tekken fan. Otherwise, it's another popcorn flick that'll keep you nice and excited for the moment if you need time to kill in the theaters. This is Iron Fist, but not in the way you imagined it to be.
Rating - 2/5