Hey everyone. Welcome. This is my review for Mortal Kombat. See, this review is going to be pretty simple. In reviewing a film like this, I shall ask only one question: does this film kick ass? I am not an expert when it comes to video games. I am not an expert in Mortal Kombat. I am familiar with it though. I’ve been to arcades and friends’ houses before so I know some of the characters. I am (now) aware that Mortal Kombat has a story mode. I don’t mean to sound ignorant but…come on. How many people actually play Mortal Kombat for the story? I apologize if you are reading this and you are one of those people. But you have to know this right? You don’t buy Mortal Kombat for the story. You buy it to whoop on your friends in the goriest way possible. I have no bias, nostalgia, or attachment when it comes to this property. I’m either the wrong person to review this film or the perfect person to review this film. Either way, I again ask: does this film kick ass? Well first, there actually is a plot so let’s start there.

Lewis Tan is Cole Young. He’s a family man and MMA fighter down on his luck. He’s had a strange dragon-shaped birthmark ever since he was born. With the help of Jessica McNamee’s Sonya Blade and Mehcad Brooks’ Jax, he’ll discover that it’s not exactly a birthmark but an invitation. See, Earth is not just the only realm out there. The sinister Outworld, led by Shang Tsung (Ng Chin Han), has defeated Earthrealm in tournament after tournament. This tournament is a fight to the death called “Mortal Kombat”. If Outworld wins one more tournament against Earth, they have plans to take over and enslave the population. Surely there is someone to stop Outworld and Shang Tsung right? Why of course. There’s Earthrealm champions Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang). They will need to train Cole and his dragon-marked companions (including a mercenary named Kano) in a last defense effort for Earth.

There’s also a few other characters game fans will be familiar with. The humans train at the temple overlooked by the god of thunder, Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). There’s also Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), a relative of Cole’s and master of the blade. Shang Tsung has his own champions looking to kill off the Earthrealm fighters. I won’t reveal the surprise of some of these characters (though Sisi Stringer’s Mileena is frankly terrifying). Of course though, there is one foe that rises above the rest: Sub-Zero (even I know this character). Sub-Zero is played by The Raid actor Joe Taslim. This is a character to be feared. He is an expert with his superhuman abilities (he has the power of ice and can freeze anything at will). Taslim effectively brings a foreboding presence and menace to the role.

Now back to that question: does this film kick-ass? Well, while I wouldn’t say I loved it, this film did end up being pretty enjoyable. The first act starts off with Sanada as Hanzo and, right off the bat, the action is particularly well-handled. Hanzo uses his blade as well as Sub-Zero uses his ice powers. Having the two battle gets the film off to a good start. The film does have some downtime in its’ second act as they set-up the rest of this plot. Yet where it counts is in the action and I found the action to be mostly satisfying. This is one of those film you see with friends (well hopefully ones that are fully vaccinated). Anyone familiar with the game will know of its’ knockouts called fatalities. The last third of this film is heavy on the action and a good amount of the fatalities here made my friend and I exclaim loudly. I have not seen the original 1995 Mortal Kombat film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. I understand though that that one was PG-13. This one is decidedly not PG-13. Nobody gets their spine ripped out but there’s still plenty of red. Safe to say this isn’t your little brother’s Mortal Kombat.

Is there something I didn’t like about the film? One word: Kano. Josh Lawson plays Kano and I’m not too familiar with this character. Is he supposed to be this unfunny and annoying? I was aggravated with his presence throughout the film. That being said, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be annoyed by him like the other characters are. Job well done then, Mr. Lawson. Game fans also might be upset since we never get to see the much-talked-about tournament. This is really more of a origin story for the main characters. Lastly, I must admit that Lewis Tan isn’t the most charismatic leading man. It’s not a breakout lead performance but it’s also not a terrible performance. It’s perfectly right in the middle. I will say though he gets better as the film goes on. As for the rest? Let me put it to you this way: another Warner Brothers release that came out recently was Godzilla vs. Kong. I had a blast with that. It’s called Godzilla vs. Kong. I’m not coming for a deep story. I’m coming for an epic fight. With that film, I walked away more than satisfied. With this, I walked away smiling. They set the film up for a sequel and, while I don’t feel like I need it, I wouldn’t mind a follow-up (especially with a character they promise to feature).

Another thing I am not a big expert on? Video game movies. Why? Because most of them I’ve been told to avoid. In terms of reception, video game movies don’t have the best track record in Hollywood. Now, I’m not saying this is a new classic but this has to rest high on the video-game-movie platform right? This film seems to be splitting people in terms of its quality. I notice a lot of my fellow filmgoers being far less positive than me. Maybe they’re upset at how their favorite characters were handled? Maybe they feel like this betrayed the property? I’m not sure. If you told me, “Hey Jeff, horror master James Wan is producing an r-rated Mortal Kombat movie,” this film is close to what I’d probably picture in my head. It gave me a fun ride. I knew almost exactly where the story was going yet I still had a decent time. Sometimes you just need some exaggerated action in your life.

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By Jeff Olson

Lifelong Chicagoan and film school graduate. Been passionate about film since I was a wee kid so writing about it feels like home.

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