Years ago, Hong Kong made a Tekken movie, but they forgot to secure the rights to actually make a Tekken movie, so it eventually became Avenging Fist, and no one really cared. About the only thing anyone remembers is that Ekin Cheng eventually turns into Sammo Hung. So anyway, fast forward to today, and now someone who bothered to secure the rights to the Tekken name, years after I think the world stopped giving a crap about Tekken, has finally made a Tekken movie called Tekken.

Sadly for the Tekken movie makers, no one has bothered to release the film yet here in the United States, despite the fact that it has some huge star power behind it, like Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa and Gary Daniels. It’s a shame, because the movie is perhaps the most amazing example of generic film making we’ll see for years. Stop me if you’ve heard this one — in the near future, society has devolved into a state of somewhat humdrum and poorly realized chaos. Only the shady mega-corporation Tekken offers hope of salvation, but they do so at the cost of our freedom. Also, they have a big televised martial arts tournament that apparently holds the world in rapt attention, even though it’s really nothing more elaborate than that WMAC Masters show that used to come on Saturday mornings. No one gave a crap about that show, but for some reason, our future ancestors will go nuts over Tekken’s Iron Fist tournament.

In order to fulfill its quota of near-future cliches, there are big TV screens on every corner, broadcasting the latest Tekken propaganda, and there are also freedom fighters who want to stop Tekken from… well, whatever the hell it is Tekken is trying to do, and instead… well, I don’t know. Other than being opposed to Tekken, the freedom fighters don’t seem to have thought things all the way through. Enter into this volatile future Jin Kazama (Jon Foo), who makes a living stealing Tekken tech and selling it to the freedom fighters, even though Jin himself is a hero in the “this isn’t my fight” mold, which inevitably means that it will be his fight. When a raid by Tekken security forces results in the death of his mother (Tamlyn Tomita), Jin does the only thing anyone ever does in these kinds of martial arts movies: enters the fighting tournament in some ill-defined plan to extract revenge by, I don’t know, beating up Gary Daniels and staring ominously at Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa’s weird haircut and uncanny resemblance to Lee Van Cleef.

The most surprising thing about Tekken is how unawful it is. It is, as stated, incredibly generic and obvious. But that aside, it executes the formula well enough, and there seems to have been some actual effort put into making it — at least more than we got in the much higher profile, much more terrible Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. The acting is fair enough. John Foo is sort of blandly present, there mostly to stare out from under his anime hair bangs and glower at people, but the supporting cast is actually decent, anchored by Kelly Overton as the friendly female fighter who doesn’t own a pair of pants that cover her ass crack, and Luke Goss as Jin’s mentor in all things Iron Fist. I made a joke during the movie about Goss being the low-rent version of Jason Statham, and weirdly enough, it looks like he’s set to take over the lead role in whatever sequel to the Jason Statham film Death Race that producers are dreaming up right now.

Villain Ian Anthony Dale is hissing and hamming it up the way such a villain should, and the assembly of fighters is comprised mostly of stuntmen and actual fighters, so all’s good there. The fights themselves are short and flashy, with the usual number of camera tricks and overly edited sequences, but at least they are being executed by people who actually, for the most part, look like they can fight. Also, for the most part, they avoid gravity defying wire tricks. Gary Daniels is on screen to lend some air of martial arts movie legitimacy to the proceedings (provided you consider him a legitimate martial arts movie star) and to be sure to snare that lucrative market of people who will see anything that has Gary Daniels in it. There must be like ten of us, at least.

Movies based on fighting video games do not have a particularly storied track record. The games are thin on plot, since few people go into them looking for intricate storylines, which means the film makers usually have to make up their own story over the course of a weekend. Tekken isn’t exactly the sort of movie that is going to reform the reputation of such films, but neither is it the torpedo that will sink the genre (seriously, if The Legend of Chun Li couldn’t do it, nothing can). It’s a fair enough movie, and a relatively harmless and enjoyable way to waste 90 minutes. Despite the low budget (which isn’t terribly evident, actually) and the whisper-thin premise, it manages to serve up just enough entertainment to be watchable, and maybe a little more besides.

Release Year: 2010 | Country: United States | Starring: Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Luke Goss, Mircea Monroe, Tamlyn Tomita, Candice Hillebrand, Marian Zapico, Gary Daniels , Lateef Crowder, Anton Kasabov, Ian Anthony Dale, Kiko Ellsworth, Louise Griffiths | Screenplay: Alan B. McElroy | Director: Dwight H. Little | Cinematography: Brian J. Reynolds | Music: John Hunter | Producer: Benedict Carver, Steven Paul

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