Mortal Kombat (2021) – Review

There’s something oddly comforting about watching a mediocre film in a packed theater on opening night. Yes, you read that right. A packed theater, in the middle of a pandemic. And while the film as a whole might not be the best, it’s so empowering to see people flock to the theaters again.

Mortal Kombat, at it’s core, doesn’t have a deep, riveting plot. Everyone on the planet knows that the reason these games sell is the badass characters and the gut wrenching gore and fights. The original films failed spectacularly in this department, even going as far as starting the video game adaptation curse.

But, what does this reboot bring to the table? A plethora of bones breaking, puncture wounds, and unbelievable amounts of blood. Exactly what we needed.

The film opens with one of the greatest hooks I’ve seen this year. Right away we are introduced to Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) in the mid 1600’s as he fetches a pail of water for his family. As he dips the buckets into the water, a familiar scream is heard, sending Hanzo racing back to his humble abode. When he arrives he discovers his family massacred and a handful of thugs ready to strike. We then see a glorious action sequence that leads into the first showdown with Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Within the first seven minutes of the film we have emotion, action, stakes, and a great performance from Hiroyuki Sanada.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of my praises end. From here we are introduced, rather poorly, to Cole Young (Lewis Tan). His character is a new addition to the franchise and the filmmakers try desperately to give his character motivations, mystery, and an importantance to the overarching lore, but they fail miserably. Cole Young happens to be one of the most uninteresting characters I have seen in quiet a long time, and Tan’s performance doesn’t help.

I’ve seen online that a common complaint with the film is the poor performances across the board, a criticism I disagree with. Everyone (except Tan) plays their part with as much faithfulness to the source material and 90s cheese that they can muster, especially Josh Lawson who plays Kano.

Where the problem with the casting, to me, is that Tadanobu Asano and Ng Chin Han, who play Lord Raiden and Shang Tsung, lack the grandiose that Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa had in the original 1995 film. Both Asano and Han do their jobs well, they miss the imposing nature that made the originals so memorable.

Another flaw that stood out to me was how terrible the script was. Throughout the film very little plot actually happens and the amount of convenience that our leads have is absurd. The natural progression of the film just halts midway through and becomes an never ending montage of violence and spotty dialogue.

Yet, the ending is exactly what makes this film so fun. You can tell that the creators of the film gave little care with the plot and mainly focused on delivering the most authentic video game adaptation they could. And succeed they did.

Every punch, kick, stab, burn, and jolt is portrayed so brilliantly that it brings to question why the Oscars still haven’t announced a stunt performer category. Each fight is shot up close and personal which gives the audience that jolt of adrenaline they desperately need after so much boring exposition. Since this is a spoiler free review I won’t give anything away, but for you die hard Mortal Kombat fans, you’re in for a treat.

The past few years have been a gold mine for video game adaptations, possibly ending the decades of embarrassing attempts. Mortal Kombat gives fans exactly what they desired, a faithful, gory, silly action film that knows exactly what it is. Fun. Flaws aside, if you go in to have a good time, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mortal Kombat was directed by Simon McQuoid from a screenplay written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham, based on a story by Russo and Oren Uziel, and stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Ng Chin Han, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Mortal Kombat is based upon the game of the same name, created by Ed Boon and John Tobias.

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