Posted on 11/30/12 03:03 PM
Man, I love movies like this.
TEKKEN (Dwight Little, 2010) is another video game adaptation, but one that stays pretty close to its source material. In it, Jin (Jon Foo) lives in the slums of a future city (I'm guessing Japan, since this is a Japanese-financed film and a Japanese actress named Tamlyn Tomita plays his mother) which is run by the evil Tekken corporation. All of the rich people live within the walls of Tekken City, while the poor live in the ghetto (called "The Anvil", as I recall), and the rich entertain themselves by watching the famous "Iron Fist Tournament", where the best fighters in the land come and fight. Jin's mother, who trained him to fight also tells him never to have anything to do with Tekken City or the tournament. But when the armed police force of the ghetto destroy his home, killing her, he decides to enter the tournament so he can get in the city and get his revenge. Will he be able to do so? That's the film.
Since "Tekken" is a martial arts game, this movie covers two genres: the martial arts movie and the video game movie. The big problem with the latter genre is that usually, video game movies don't use the story from the game, and suck. That changed with STREET FIGHTER (Steven E. De Souza, 1994), and although that didn't help the genre much, it did create a new prerequisite for a video game movie working, which this film satisfies. Better, the characters who are Asian are played by Asians, the Black guy is Black, and the characters' identities are more or less intact. They even look like their video game selves, so all good things.
Obviously not enough to explain why I like this movie, so let's be more specific. In a martial arts movie, you primarily care about two things: does the fighting look good and does the story distract from it? The first part is clearly a yes, and for the second, you get a resounding "no". Notice that I didn't say that the story has to be good, because again, this is basically a martial arts movie - the story is just a variation on the story of ENTER THE DRAGON (1973, Robert Clouse), which is also the source material in the storyline for all fighting video games: bad ass martial artist goes somewhere to fight bad ass martial artist after bad ass martial artist to get to the Big Boss. In the process, you get to see other people fight also. ENTER THE DRAGON is the best because the martial artist in question is Bruce Lee, and the movie doesn't patronize you by making him play some character with a complicated story. This movie, however, varies that nicely by mixing it up with sexy female fighters (I swear, Kelly Overton has a PAINFULLY sexy body) and throwing in an Oedipal storyline too. Most of all, the fighting is well shot, clear, and stylized, like the actual Tekken video game. I am unique in that I used to enjoy going to arcades and watching people play these games. Why? Because the fighting was beautifully shot, the characters beautifully rendered and creative, and the stories they came up with were simple, but fairly clever in their own right (in an actual fighting game, every character gets a separate storyline of his / her own, and I was always fascinated by how many ways they could do them. The fun of winning the game with each character was seeing their individual "ending"). Everything ties together nicely, you get what you wanted; it's a lot of fun. Definitely a B+.
Why no perfect score? Eh, some minor suspension of disbelief and "could have been handled better" issues. For one, I didn't like how our hero (Foo) cheats on his girl (I think she's played by Mircea Monroe) and then goes back to her at the end. I thought it was a stretch that he's an unknown, wins one match, and now he's "The People's Choice". But I imagine that was for time and / or budget, and I DID like how they got around the issue of having to show all of the fighters fight to get to the main one. Dwight Little is one of my "unknown masters" (he just did an amazing episode of "Nikita"), and I always seem to like his films. This movie is another example of how he can take something that should be crap and make something of it using skill alone. More filmmakers should approach their work for hire this way. Good production design, good cast, good fighting, decent story, good movie. Simple as that.