If nothing else, "Tekken" gets in my good graces just for being what it is: a flashy and ultimately decent tournament-based martial arts movie bearing an impressive cast list. The film's eventual falling point, however, is that it's based on a video game series that's so much better than decent that I can't help but lament that it isn't as awesome as what I've been able to create on arcade screens for the past sixteen years. If judged solely on these latter disadvantages, my rating for this film would be lower, but in light of my genuine appreciation for the remaining content, I'm going to consider it from a rounder perspective and name it as one of the better adaptations out there.
Like in most video game flicks, the story suffers. It's played straight and high-tech, excluding all supernatural elements from the games and seriously watering down the triangle of contempt that serves as the canon plotline between the three main characters, Jin Kazama (Jon Foo, The Protector), Kazuya Mishima (Ian Anthony Dale, Mortal Kombat: Legacy), and Heihachi Mishima (Cary Tagawa, Mortal Kombat). The film takes place in a dystopian future where the Mishima-run Tekken corporation reigns supreme over a scarred earth and sponsors a regular fighting tournament to keep the masses entertained. After the death of his mother at the hands of the organization, Jin enters the tournament to avenge her while Kazuya plots the overthrow of his father.
The backgrounds of most of the characters have been addled a bit as well, which is disappointing but I'll argue that their better-than-average casting makes up for some of this: Kelly Overton (Breaking Dawn) as Chirstie Monteiro, Luke Goss (Blade II) as Steve Fox, Gary Daniels (The Expendables) as Bryan Fury, Darrin Henson (Soul Food) as Raven, Lateef Crowder (Undisputed III: Redemption) as Eddy Gordo, Cung Le (Pandorum) as Marshall Law, and several others are swell fits, making for one of the best ensembles ever seen in a fighting-themed adaptation like this (or at least a much better one than in The King of Fighters). Utilization of these performers and characters, however, is another issue: Heihachi and Steve Fox are prominent characters but don't fight at all, Kazuya is written as a slimy rich boy rather than the fighting beast we know him as, and - with very few exceptions - no character besides Jin has more than a single fight.
When they do fight, however, it's mostly good stuff. Director Dwight Little hasn't done much action fare since he directed Steven Seagal and Brandon Lee during their prime, but he seems to have gotten better with age: he and choreographer Cyril Raffaelli wrangle some very competent brawls which occasionally peak as deliciously eye-opening, like during the Eddie Gordo and Bryan Fury fights. In-game fighting styles are mimicked pretty well (sans Marshall Law, whose portrayer sticks with his MMA instead of jeet kune do) and even the actors who aren't real-life martial artists come across looking tough, particularly Miss Overton. On the downside, almost all of the fights could've been longer, if only to do justice to the millions of times the same match-ups have taken place between gamers, and slow-motion was unquestionably overutilized. The final match between Jin and Kazuya was ruined by the movie's portrayal of the latter, but the remaining seven should all be considered generally satisfying if you're not out to hate them.
In the end, this one doesn't transcend the game-to-movie curse that we're all waiting to see shed and hardcore fans will rightfully bash the snot out of the altered storyline and missing characters, but as far as this button-masher goes, my needs have been sated...maybe not by the ideal "Tekken" movie, but by a good fight flick that ought to have gotten better than a direct-to-video release.