Benjamin has been reviewing films online since 2004 and has seen way more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the Big Deal?
Tekken is an action movie released in 2010 and is based on the series of video games of the same name created by Namco. The film is set in a dystopian future where a young man finds himself entered into a televised fighting tournament in order to assassinate the man he holds responsible for the death of his mother. The film stars Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ian Anthony Dale and Luke Goss. The film was premiered in Japan but due to the negative response from audiences, the film was condemned to a direct-to-DVD release in the US and UK. As such, the film was a box office disaster with global takings of just over $967'000 compared to the film's budget of $30 million. Despite this, the film was followed by a prequel Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge in 2015 - which performed even worse and earned similar scorn from critics.
What's It About?
After the Terror War more or less wiped out civilisation, the remaining world was split into the territory of eight mega-corporations - the most powerful of these is the Tekken Corporation which controls North America and rules it with a dictatorial relish. The chairman of Tekken, Heihachi Mishima, organises the King Of The Iron Fist tournament that promises wealth and celebrity to the winner as a way of keeping the oppressed citizens of the Anvil slum in check. One such citizen, contraband runner Jin Kazama, finds himself the target of Tekken's brutal enforcers known as Jackhammers. Escaping home, Jin finds his home has been destroyed and his mother killed.
Seeking revenge, Jin discovers a Tekken ID badge belonging to his mother which reveals her past as a participant in the Iron Fist tournament. Jin decides to enter the tournament not to win the prize but as a way of getting close to Mishima in order to assassinate him. But Mishima faces another problem in the shape of his power-hungry son Kazuya Mishima, whose thirst for control of the Tekken Corporation knows no limits.
What's to Like?
There is no escaping the fact that Tekken is a pretty poor film by anyone's standards. Trying to find something you enjoy is like trying to find the highlight in your least favourite meal - all of it is unappealing and deeply unsatisfying. I suppose that some of the characters look a little like their video game counterparts (although I'm taking other people at their word here as I have never played any Tekken game) but in doing so, they make them look silly - Tagawa is impossible to take seriously with his hair styled the way it is and Monteiro's trousers seem as impractical as they are revealing.
The action, such as it is, isn't anything you haven't seen dozens of times before but there are no fireballs or moves that seem especially reminiscent of any fighting game. I also found the random backdrop generator a hilarious addition, providing each bout of the tournament with a slightly different set of rocks with ultimately have zero impact on the action depicted. To combat this emptiness of thought, the film injects a narrative with so many plot points that you forget who is related to who and why they are doing what they are. Lastly, the cast is ultimately forgettable with the exception of Goss, the only actor I recognised. And when the film's only recognisable talent is known more for his singing, you know you have a problem.
Well, I recognised Tagawa but I felt sorry for him after his trip to the barbers.
- The director of the Tekken video game series, Katsuhiro Harada, slated the film. "That Hollywood movie is terrible," he said. "We were not able to supervise that movie; it was a cruel contract. I'm not interested in that movie."
- This is the second time that Dale played the son of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa after they had previously appeared in the TV remake of Hawaii Five-O.
- This isn't the first adaptation of the video game as an anime movie was released in 1998, Tekken: The Motion Picture. Another animated movie followed in 2011, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, which was overseen by the game's producers. Many see this film as a direct response to Tekken and its poor reception.
What's Not to Like?
Oh, where do I begin? The film has so many faults that I'm almost spoiled for choice. I've already mentioned the largely anonymous cast but this is actually a fatal error on the part of the producers. Actors deliver lines as though they themselves don't agree with them and the baby-faced Foo lacks the charisma or appearance of a memorable leading man. Think about his motives - if all he wants is the death of Mishima Senior then why does he fight the murderous intent of Mishima Junior? Personally, I'd have led the bland brat kill his father and be on my merry way back to my girlfriend - someone who Jin had completely forgotten about after staring at Monteiro's buttcrack for five minutes.
Telling any sort of enjoyable narrative with this international cavalcade of forget-me-nots would have been a challenge but Tekken is an especially confusing mess of familial drama, meaningless beatdowns and pantomime villainy. Even in the realm of video-game adaptations, which are notoriously ill-received, this movie represents the bottom end of the curve. It lacks the goofiness of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat which might have helped, instead of its stony-faced seriousness. But it also lacks any element of fantasy or excitement, anything to lift it from its depressing dystopian setting. No mad scientists, no fireballs, no monsters and definitely no gods of lightning - each fighter is a rough stereotype of their homeland (the Spanish guy has a hint of matador about him, the Brazilian is obviously a capoeira expert but helpfully wears yellow and green trousers and so on) and that's as far as characterisation goes.
Should I Watch It?
Unless you're a complete nut-job for anything Tekken-related, I'd keep well away from this nonsense. Fans of the games will be aghast at the moronic treatment of their favourite characters while newcomers will be horrified that anyone thought this film would be entertaining to some people. It's clueless and inept beyond belief, a paltry excuse for a martial-arts film that even an idiot could find a better example.
Great For: anyone who has never seen a film before or knows what a film is
Not So Great For: action fans, anyone who has ever played Tekken, martial-arts lovers, anyone looking for a decent video-game adaptation because this isn't it
What Else Should I Watch?
The graveyard of video-game adaptations that came and bombed is growing by the year. From the legendarily bad Super Mario Bros. in 1993, the market has been championing various films like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Doom and Warcraft. The more observant among you can still see this struggle continue today after the mixed reception to big-budget efforts like Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider. Hell, the only reason Rampage took as much as it did was the bullet-proof reputation of its star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
I did suggest that a legitimate idiot could suggest a better martial-arts film than Tekken but that won't stop me from having a go as well. From iconic movies like Enter The Dragon, contemporary action thrillers like Hard Boiled and the jaw-droppingly beautiful epics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House Of Flying Daggers, the genre has much to offer and continues to thrive today.
Ian Anthony Dale
Alan B. McElroy
Release Date (UK DVD)
2nd May, 2011
Action, Drama, Martial Arts
© 2018 Benjamin Cox