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A video game comes to partial life in 'Tekken,' we reckon

Rod Lott July 5th, 2011

Here's what I knew about the video game "Tekken" before watching the film it now has spawned: "Tekken" is a video game; I think it involves fighting.


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

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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