Monday, 16 May 2011

Film Review: Tekken (2010)

Video-game movies are a definite niche in cinema, and by and large are rubbish. And within that niche is another niche, even more specialised - the fighting video-game movie. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Double Dragon, D.O.A., The King of Fighters, these have all attempted to take a fighting game (or "beat 'em up" if you're old skool) and turn it into a compelling live action event. Or at least one with a lot of kicking and punching. Most have not been successful and arguably only the original Mortal Kombat movie was coherent, as they always have trouble presenting a scenario that justifies a tournament of fighting, while including some non-fighting sequences to, you know, get a bit of a story in there. Don't even get me started on the Chun Li film... So now we have Tekken as the newest addition to this dubious honour role. And much to my surprise it didn't suck as badly as I expected.

The story is of course a simple one. Jin, a young man trained by his mother in the art of fighting and who takes whatever work, legal or otherwise, is going in their near future dystopian society. This is an earth where nation have ceased to exist and instead corporations run different sections of the globe. One of these corporations is Tekken, run by Heihachi Mishima, and while some are provided for the slums are overflowing and opportunities are few and far between. Before long Jin runs foul of the law under Tekken and they come looking for him. Mishima's son and heir Kazuya is in charge of the operation and orders for a section of the slums to be fire bombed, killing Jin;s mother in the process. Consumed with rage Jin swears vengeance and enters the tournament as the people's champion, so he can exact revenge on Mishima.

Very accurate to the game - he should go with this 'do all the time.
So far so cliched, and the rest of the film is no different. The story doesn't make a lot of sense in parts (why would Tekken allow Jin to take part in the tournament when they were trying to arrest him only moments before?) but it actually presents an acceptable reason for the tournament to be happening, and for the level of violence they have to resort to in order to win. In fact it was surprising how violent this film is in parts, considering that the Tekken games were never that gory. But despite that the film does a good job of bringing the Tekken-verse to the screen, even if the story bears little resemblance to the one in the games. The characters are a tad hit and miss, though Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is excellent as Mishima, and Gary Daniels makes a very good Bryan Fury. But this is also one of the problems with the film as those unfamiliar with Tekken are unlikely to get much from this film, as one of the greatest joys in it is seeing these characters realised and in a few cases played by real fighters.

This is the good guy, in case you can't tell.
This leads me to my other criticism and praise - the fighting. Any fighting film based on a fighting video-game should have a lot of fighting in it. Funnily enough though there were times when watching Tekken I wanted them to get back to the fights and stop with the story for a bit. Jon Foo is a very watchable martial artist, and could potentially be big news if he can get the right roles. Gary Daniels, Cung Li (as Martial Law - not in it nearly long enough) are also both genuine fighters and a number of the others are dancers or gymnasts so their fighting sequences aren't too choppy. But the ladies are all just actresses, making their fighting moments a bit, well, rubbish. The camera cuts around a lot, so the stunt doubles can do their stuff, but personally I prefer seeing an uncut sequence in fights. What can I say, kung fu movies have spoiled me. But they all look good, and I suppose that's something. Look out for Christie Monteiro (Kellly Overton) and her pants. You'll know what I mean when you see it.

This is the bad guy, in case you can't tell.
So for a movie with no character development, cliches in every plot point and not enough tournament fights I enjoyed this more than I expected. Maybe because I have played a lot of Tekken in past, and I like seeing Jon Foo in stuff. Or maybe I was just in a very easy going mood. It's not a good film - but it isn't entirely a lost cause either.

If you want to see why i like Jon Foo watch the below. If only this was what the Street Fighter movie had been. Even with the dodgy wig. I can dream...

1 comment:

  1. Well, Tekken's been out a long time, hasn't it?

    I think the Achilles' Heel of movies based on video games is that they seem to always be rushed to hit the theaters while the game's still "hot". This calculation is almost never done accurately, but the movie producers still insist on it, and bring maximum inefficiency and confusion to the process.

    If Tekken had already produced a moviegoing "stable" of fans by 2010, it might have been able to avoid this pitfall that has wreaked such havoc on the genre