Tekken (live action) – Movie Review

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Video games have never really succeeded when adapted to film, and the beat ’em up genre has fared particularly badly – with the quality ranging from awful (Street Fighter) to cheesy (Mortal Kombat) and mildly entertaining (Dead or Alive).  While reasonably entertaining, Tekken  doesn’t really do much to improve the reputation of the genre.

The storyline of the Tekken games has always been a bit convoluted considering it’s just a fighting game, and this is one area where the film actually improves upon the game by giving it more of a focus.  We find ourselves in the near-future where the world is ruled by eight rival organsiations – the most powerful of which is the Tekken Corporation, headed by Heihachi Mishima and his son Kazyua, which controls North America.  (Quite how the USA came to be  ruled by a Japanese company is never quite explained).  Each organisation ensures its most important citizens live comfortable lives at the expense of the millions of others who struggle in fear and poverty.  In order to distract the underclass from their misery a televised fighting  tournament is hosted each year with each corporation sending their own sponsored fighter aiming to become of the ‘King of Iron Fist’.

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Our protagonist is Jin Kuzama, one of the aforementioned underclass, who earns himself a wildcard entry to the Iron Fist tournament with the aim of avenging his murdered mother.  Jin is unaware he is actually the son of Kazuya (and grandson of Heihachi) which sets into motion a violent family feud, mirroring the main storyline of the game series.  Jin is played by Jon Foo who does a decent job at both acting and showing off his martial arts skills, even though he looks more like the character of Law (and strangely enough the actor who actually portrays Law is UFC fighter Cung Lee who’s bulky physique means he would have been better suited to Jin).  Other characters are all represented by actors who do bear a good resemblance to their video game counterparts and have some level of martial arts training, the exceptions being the female characters (who are just there as eye-candy) and the two recognisable actors – Luke Goss and Ian Anthony Dale who portray Steve Fox and Kazuya respectively.

There’s obviously a limited budget but the film-makers do a reasonable job to hide it, we get a sense of the dystopian world the characters inhabit and although the environments are restricted in size and scope they are fairly believable.  Almost all of the fantastical elements from the game series (monsters, cursed blood, androids, space ninjas) are absent here, which is probably a sensible decision not just for the budget but in stopping the film becoming too ridiculous.  However the tone is actually too dark and serious, and could defintely have done with a few more light-hearted moments.  The film’s main strength are the fight scenes themselves which are well choreographed and  make good use of actors who have martial arts backgrounds.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the brutality of the fights themselves which feature plenty of blood and broken bones, and with a grittier feel than the cartoony violence of the Mortal Kombat films.

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However as a fan of the game series I was quite dissapointed by the use of characters.  There is more of a focus on characters introduced later in the series and as a result we don’t get any sight of classic characters like King, Lei, Paul or Jack amongst others (although at least Paul and Jack get namechecked).  Their absence is especially galling as the film features both Nina and Anna Williams when we really one really needed one of the deadly sisters, particularly as they don’t do much more than pose in revealing outfits (Anna doesn’t even get a spoken line!)

Ultimately Tekken is a below average film with some satisfying fight scenes, although gamers will find it more enjoyable than most – assuming they can look beyond some of the liberties taken with the characters and the lack of the fantastical elements that could make the games so enjoyable.

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