Director – Dwight Little, Screenplay – Alan B. McElroy, Based on the Videogame Created by Namco/Bandai Games, Inc., Producers – Benedict Carver & Steve Paul, Photography – Brian J. Reynolds, Music – John Hunter, Visual Effects Supervisor – Anthony Riazzi, Visual Effects – At the Post, Giantsteps (Supervisor – Michael Vaglienty), Ingenuity Engine (Supervisor – David Lebensfeld), Look FX (Supervisor – Gabriel Sanchez), Make VFX, Pixel Magic (Supervisor – Raymond McIntyre Jr.) & Unknown Entity, Special Effects Supervisor – Jack Lynch, Production Design – Nathan Amondson. Production Company – Crystal Sky Pictures.
Jon Foo (Jin Kazama), Kelly Overton (Christie Monteiro), Ian Anthony Dale (Kazuya Mishima), Luke Goss (Steve Fox), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Heihachi Mishima), Tamlyn Tomita (Jun Kazama), Gary Daniels (Brian Fury), Darren Dewitt Henson (Raven), Mircea Monroe (Kara), Candice Hillebrand (Nina Williams), Marian Zapico (Anna Williams), Roger Huerta (Miguel Caballero Rojo), Cung Lee (Marshall Law), John Pyper Ferguson (Bonner), Lateef Crowder (Eddy Gordo), Anton Kasubov (Sergei Dragusov)
It is in the future. Following the collapse of society, the world has been divided up into sectors ruled by corporations. Each year, the Iron Fist tournament is held among the corporations where selected fighters from each bloc come together in competition. This year it is the turn of Tekken City, ruled over by Heihachi Mishima, the creator of the Iron Fist. In The Anvil, the anarchic wastelands outside Tekken City, Jin Kazama is a fighter who has been trained by his mother. Jin steals a piece of hi-tech Tekken equipment for the rebels but this has him hunted by the Jackhammers, the elite soldiers headed by Mishima’s son Kazuya, who break in and kill Jin’s mother. Burning with vengeance, Jin signs up for the Iron Fist open call from which one fighter has the chance to be selected for the competition. Against the odds, Jin succeeds in beating his opponent. Taken inside Tekken City, he is placed into competition up against the world’s top fighters where he succeeds in holding his own. He is also attracted to female fighter Christie Monteiro. However, Kazuya knows secrets about Jin’s past and seeks to have him eliminated. To this extent, Kazuya usurps control of Tekken from his father and now decrees that the fighters compete to the death.
Tekken (a phrase that translates into English as Iron Fist) was originally an arcade videogame from the Japanese company Namco and first appeared in 1994. Tekken is a two-player game where players can choose from among a variety of character roles and engage one another in martial arts tournaments. There have been six different Tekken game releases since then, most of these designed for the Playstation, as well as a number of spinoff games. The popularity of Tekken has also seen releases in a variety of other media, including a game card series, a manga comic-book, a number of cd releases of the music from the games and a previous hour-long two-part OVA anime, released in the West as Tekken: The Motion Picture (1998) and the subsequent full-length anime film Tekken: Blood Vengeance (2011).
This American-made live-action version of Tekken is yet another in the spate of films adapted from video and computer games that we have seen from the 1990s onwards. Others among these include:- Super Mario Bros. (1993), Double Dragon (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Mortal Kombat (1995), Wing Commander (1999), Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (2001), Resident Evil (2002), House of the Dead (2003), Alone in the Dark (2005), BloodRayne (2005), Doom (2005), DOA: Dead or Alive (2006), Silent Hill (2006), Hitman (2007), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007), Postal (2007), Far Cry (2008), Max Payne (2008), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Angry Birds (2016), Assassin’s Creed (2016), Warcraft (2016), Rampage (2018), Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019), Monster Hunter (2020), Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Werewolves Within (2021), the tv series Halo (2022- ) and Uncharted (2022).
The director is Dwight [H.] Little who has made a number of minor action films with the likes of Bloodstone (1986), Getting Even (1986), Marked for Death (1990), Rapid Fire (1992) and Murder at 1600 (1997), as well as Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995). Little has ventured into genre cinema on several occasions with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), the slasher movie version of The Phantom of the Opera (1989) and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004). Screenwriter Alan B. McElroy has written several of Dwight Little’s other films and other efforts such as Spawn (1997), Left Behind (2000), Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002), Wrong Turn (2003) and Thr3e (2006).
On screen, Tekken remains disappointingly generic in all respects. It is indicative that even though the film was designed for cinematic release, it ended up being released directly to dvd in most territories. The background is a generic socially collapsed future – the film borrows the idea from Rollerball (1975) of the world being dominated by corporate blocs as background for gladiatorial games but does absolutely nothing with this idea beyond mentioning it.
The plot involving a combat tournament between various player characters from the game has been used in a number of other videogame adapted films – Mortal Kombat, DOA: Dead or Alive – which is in turn taken from the template created by Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973). The central character of the kid who is a rank outsider and rises to the top of the competition by sheer skill is borrowed from The Karate Kid (1984).
The film has almost exclusively been designed around the various fight scenes with the barest minimum of fleshing out of characters beyond that. French action choreographer Cyril Raffaelli, best known as the hero in Banlieue 13 (2004), has been employed to choreograph the fight sequences. They are essentially all there is to the film – anything beyond that is only developed in the most minimal way. Yet the very slickness of the commercial packaging leaves the action scenes feeling so bland that there is nothing you remember about any of them by the end of the film. Hero Jon Foo at least plays with a liveliness and charisma. He seems too young to take seriously but certainly has more animation and personality than the better known Jet Li.
Tekken: A Man Called X/Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge (2014) was a prequel, featuring return performances from Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Gary Daniels.
Screenwriter Alan B. McElroy has an interesting number of films to his credits including Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Wheels of Terror (1990), Spawn (1997), Left Behind (2000), Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002), Wrong Turn (2003), Thr3e (2006), The Perfect Guy (2015), Fractured (2019) and Wrong Turn (2021), while he has also worked as a producer on Star Trek: Discovery (2017– ).