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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

TEKKEN -- DVD review by porfle

A dark dystopian future is the backdrop for videogame-based mixed martial arts mayhem in TEKKEN (2010), with a simple story that rarely intrudes on the slick action setpieces.

After the Terror Wars leave Earth's civilization in a shambles, corporations step up and take over.  The biggest, Tekken, controls the Americas and hosts the annual "Iron Fist" fighting tournament in which champions from each corporation compete for glory on global television.  Tekken is ruled by the semi-benevolent Heihachi Mishima (familiar actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) but his ambitious son Kazuya (Ian Anthony Dale, THE BUCKET LIST, THE HANGOVER) aspires to take over and become a ruthless tyrant.

Jin (Jon Foo), a tough young rebel who survives by transporting black market goods through rough territory, wins a wild-card slot in the competition over the protests of his mother, who trained him in martial arts and hides her Tekken-related past from her son.  When she is murdered by Kazuya's robotlike Jackhammer soldiers, Jin's mission becomes one of revenge as he fights his way through a barrage of fierce opponents right to the top.

TEKKEN is no BLADE RUNNER but has a passable futuristic atmosphere that spans the mean streets of Jin's violent neighborhood to the glittering halls of privilege to which the lower classes aspire.  Once the premise is established and we meet Jin's competition, it's fight time with a series of bone-crushing rumbles that serve up a fair amount of violent entertainment without ever being really amazing or original.  The choreography is performed in brief snippets edited together pretty smoothly while the direction and camerawork are better than average. 

To break things up between matches there's a potential romance brewing between Jin and a female opponent, the stunning Christie (Kelly Overton, BREAKING DAWN, THE RING TWO), while they and the other fighters get mixed up in the increasingly hostile power struggle between the father-and-son Mishimas.  This leads to some nice shoot-'em-up action and even more drama when the Iron Fist match-ups become duels to the death as the evil Kazuya asserts control.

Cung Le (PANDORUM) appears as Marshall Law, Jin's first opponent in a furious cage match that secures his place in the contest.  Adding a little spice to the mix are the deadly sister act of Nina and Anna Williams (Candice Hillebrand, Marian Zapico), two brawling babes recruited by Kazuya to eliminate Jin.

Among the other fighters are armor-plated nightmare Yoshimitsu (Gary Ray Stearns) and reigning champion Bryan Fury (kickboxing star Gary Daniels, THE EXPENDABLES), who is more cyborg than human.  Luke Goss, who I found very effective as super-vampire Nomak in BLADE II, is Jin's wise friend and manager, Steve. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a trailer and a 50-minute documentary, "Stunt Stars: Tekken", which goes into detail about the conception and execution of the film's action sequences in which some of the videogame's fight moves were duplicated in live-action.  (Stick around till the end of the closing credits for the film's final tag.)

With its fairly well-realized future world of darkness and danger, TEKKEN is small-scale sci-fi that never gets either really good or really bad.  Despite its superficial feel, its lack of resolution (the filmmakers clearly intend this as the first chapter in a series), and the fact that it's mainly a vehicle for all those mixed martial arts matches, I found it entertaining and easy to watch. Gamers, on the other hand, may prefer playing to watching.

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Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo

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