Turns out, the movie isn’t much more complex. Its near-future setting
imagines a grim scenario following “the terror wars,” where the globe
then is ruled by eight corporations. America has fallen to Tekken, where
metal-helmeted warriors known as Jackhammers enforce the corrupt
government, which has banned coffee, chocolate and oranges.
But in the appropriately named area of Anvil, the young and careless Jin
(Jon Foo, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”) gets his hands on some,
which proves fatal for his mother (Tamlyn Tomita, “The Eye”) when the
Jackhammers come a-calling. On the upside, her death means Jin finally
can try out for Tekken’s gladiatorial-style Iron Fist tournament. He
wins an open-call cage match with relative ease, becoming the first
amateur to do so.
The kill-or-be-killed tourney features skilled fighters with colorful
names like Raven, Dragunov, Bryan Fury and Marshall Law (get it?). With
holographic backgrounds, it resembles a “Mortal Kombat” touring stage
show, and is overseen by the power-mad Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Balls of
Fury”), whose hair and makeup suggests the script for a look dubbed “Pat
Morita in a wind tunnel.”
Jin falls for one of his fellow fighters: the hot white girl of course,
played by Kelly Overton (“The Ring Two”) because she looks great in
black leather pants. But he also a girlfriend in Mircea Monroe (TV’s
“Episodes”), but the movie fails to explore with whom he’ll stick. It’s
kind of a mess in the regard — a nail hammered flush with the wood when
you see the same flashback no less than three times.
“Tekken” would’ve been a popular Friday-night Cinemax premiere, if this
were 1995. It reminded me of one such flick, “Fist of the North Star,”
before I even realized they shared a star in kickboxer Gary Daniels.
“Tekken” is even directed by a ’90s B-action fave, Dwight H. Little
(“Marked for Death,” “Rapid Fire”), and scripted by Alan B. McElroy
(“Spawn,” “Halloween 4″).
And that old-school VHS vibe is precisely why, despite all its obvious
flaws, I liked it from a purely mindless viewpoint. In the cinematic
ghetto of video-game movies, it’s nowhere near the top of “Resident
Evil,” yet nor is it in the toilet of “Double Dragon,” either. Let’s say
it sits atop the tank.
What does one expect from such a film? Martial arts and eye candy, or
plot and substance? “Tekken” only aims to deliver the goods in the first
group. For a brain-turned-off show of punching, kicking and
curve-admiring, it’ll do. —Rod Lott