Director: Dwight H. Little
Cast: Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Luke Goss, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Plot: In the slums of the Anvil, Jin Kazama (Foo) is attacked by Jackhammers and in retaliation, he goes after Heihachi. However, he will need to get through the Iron Fist Tournament.
This film’s saving grace is that no one really had too much expectation for this movie, so when it failed to capture the cult following of the gaming series, no one was too bothered. However, that is a poor excuse for bad film-making.
Let’s start with the good. Director Little is smart enough to know that his biggest obstacle here is the nonsense tone of the games. The humour and story-telling has always been very slapstick, making it hard for a live action movie to follow the same pattern. Little transforms the universe and grounds it in reality. His vision is actually quite an interesting one and I liked the originality to the story. We jump into a Sci-Fi dystopian future (which also neatly sidesteps any plot holes when giant robots start dropping out of the skies), where our hero, Jin Kazama lives with his mother in the slums. The Iron Fist Tournament promises the winner a lifetime of celebrity status and endless riches, giving the citizens enough hope not to openly rebel. Head of the tournament, Heihachi sends his army of Jackhammers to assassinate Jin for reasons unknown, meaning that to get to the bottom of the mystery, Jin has no choice but to compete in the Iron Fist tournament. This way, Heihachi cannot murder a public figure in the spotlight and if he can win, he will find himself in the same room as his would-be killer, the ideal way to get answers. Or kill the man who destroyed his life. The universe has been reinvented and that is the appeal that made this movie not a complete waste of time.
However, when you rip Tekken so harshly out of its roots, you need the characters to be spot-on, anchoring the movie and providing the fans with some sense of familiarity. Tekken’s biggest and most unforgiveable flaw is messing up almost every character. It tries to shoe-horn to many recognisable faces into the movie, only getting time to develop Jin, Steve, Heihachi and Kazuya. Everyone else is embarrassing to spend time with. Raven is supposed to be a mysterious ninja-like fighter, who never speaks a word. The movie gives us a forgettable contestant in it for the money, who cannot help but say stereotypical 90s black guy things in between every punch. Nina and Anna Williams, the fighting sisters, lose all of their original charm and pose as pretty naked women in the background, who I don’t recall getting a single line of dialogue or even a purpose in the plot. Hardly any of the fighters are done decently and they have zero character development. Even Jin barely remains intact as a hero. I cannot fault John Foo, the lead actor, as he has a decent attempt at acting and his fight scenes are breath-taking. However, his character falls foul of the script. For example, one moment sees him cheat on his girlfriend back home in the slums, for game favourite, Christie Monteiro. There is no explanation for this plot development. I use plot development in the loosest term, because the connection between the two characters is only slightly touched upon again and by this point in the movie, the writers have almost entirely written Jin’s girl back home out of the story. It is a weird slap to the face and sticks out like a sore thumb.
I guess that this film does offer cheap thrills in the fighting department. I reckon that, ironically, the people who will enjoy this film the most will be the ones that have never heard of the actual game. Like I said, the Sci-Fi universe is fun to get to grips with and newcomers won’t realise that the writers are butchering the original characters from the game. However, seeing as this film didn’t even get to the cinemas, I cannot see too many people actually finding this movie, unless they purposefully seek out a Tekken film.
Final Verdict: A fresh canvas lulls you into the idea that Little might have made a good Tekken movie, but the resulting plot turns into a jumbled mess.