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Mortal Kombat movie review: gleefully violent adaptation a big treat for fans of game

Fans of the long-running Mortal Kombat video game franchise finally have cause for celebration. After enduring numerous film adaptations that neutered the notoriously graphic violence of the games, first-time director Simon McQuoid delivers the series’ trademark “fatalities” in all their gory glory.
Thanks in large part to the participation of producer James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman), Warner Brothers’ big screen reboot of Mortal Kombat is not only bloodier and swearier than previous iterations of the supernatural tournament showcase, it also positions its Asian protagonists and antagonists front and centre for the first time.

The film’s international cast boasts a number of established Asian performers, including Tadanobu Asano as Thunder god Raiden, who is tasked with a*sembling Earth’s most formidable champions, and Hiroyuki Sanada as seventeenth century ninja Hanzo Hasashi, later reincarnated as the all-powerful Scorpion.

Singaporean actor Chin Han (The Dark Knight) plays villainous Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung, out to eliminate Raiden’s heroes and seize control of Earthrealm. Doing his bidding is the deadly a*sassin Sub-Zero, brilliantly realised by Indonesian martial arts star Joe Taslim (The Raid, Fast & Furious 6).
The film’s breakout star is British-Chinese actor Lewis Tan, previously seen in action shows Wu a*sassins and Into the Badlands, who lands the lead role of washed-up MMA f*ghter Cole Young.

After learning that his dragon-shaped birthmark singles him out to compete in the legendary Mortal Kombat tournament against Shang Tsung’s evil horde, Cole is whisked away by fellow competitors Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), and Kano (Josh Lawson) to meet Raiden and Shaolin monk Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), from whom he will learn about his true lineage and supposedly unlock his secret “Arkana” superpower.

If that reads like little more than a laundry list of quirky character names, one must acknowledge the film’s source material: the Mortal Kombat games require little more than selecting a player to compete in bout after bout of deadly one-on-one combat.

To his credit, McQuoid understands and honours these video game origins, and includes memorable lines of dialogue and signature f*ght moves throughout. The f*ght choreography achieves an impressive synergy between elaborate martial arts and super-powered effects work, which is aided significantly by the natural abilities of the film’s adept and athletic cast.

Nuanced character drama this most certainly isn’t; instead, this is boxers with ninja blood and green berets with robot arms pummelling invisible lizards and bat-winged demon babes to a bloody pulp. When they’re not f*ghting, characters bicker and spout pseudo-spiritual idioms until it’s time to square off again. Mortal Kombat is not for the discerning palate, but for those in the know – get over here!

Good reviews coming out of Asia so far

"For every step backward it takes, Mortal Kombat then promptly flying-bicycle kicks its way forward again to the point where I walked out of the cinema not just thoroughly entertained, but actually all-in on the next chapter teased in its closing moments," wrote Critical Hit.

"The fatalities are just as gruesome as you’d expect," says Fortress of Solitude. "But it’s the hand-to-hand combat that stands head and shoulders above everything else here. The amount of work that went into the choreography and stunt work is beyond impressive."

IGN Middle East wasn't quite so enthusiastic: "For the average viewer, there will be little reason to care for the stakes here. Ultimately that’s what 2021’s Mortal Kombat comes down to - a solid video game adaptation full of fan service for the gamers (stay for the sequel tease) and a decent action movie for everyone else."

Last edited by GodsFavorite; 04-14-2021 at 05:48 PM..