The Mortal Kombat reboot is a bloody awesome adaptation of the famed video game franchise. Fans are going to be overjoyed. Everything that makes Mortal Kombat entertaining gets amped up with the hard-R rating. The film is loaded with brutal fight scenes. The martial arts choreography, superb visual effects, and insane fatalities are a marked improvement over the previous iterations. The biggest surprise is the chemistry of the ensemble cast. They’re better defined characters with foul-mouthed, hilarious interactions.
The overall premise remains the same. The deadly mercenaries of Outworld, under the leadership of the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han), have defeated Earthrealm in nine consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments. A tenth victory would seal Earth’s fate. Even Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), the God of Thunder and Earth’s protector, would be powerless to stop Shang Tsung’s forces. But an ancient prophecy foretells a bloodline that is destined to unite Earth’s greatest fighters and conquer Outworld. Shang Tsung decides to send his most lethal warrior to eliminate this threat.
Lewis Tan stars as Cole Young, a down on his luck MMA fighter that throws matches to provide for his wife (Laura Brent) and daughter (Matilda Kimber). Young is approached after a cage fight by a former special forces soldier, Jax (Mehcad Brooks). He takes great interest in a unique birthmark on Young’s chest. Their introduction is interrupted by a terrifying attacker with supernatural abilities. Assassin Bin-Han of the Lin Kuei, otherwise known as Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), has come to finish the job he started centuries earlier in Japan.
The filmmakers smartly thread the needle between established lore and a fresh new perspective. They reframe the origin story to reflect the disparate characters coming together for the cause. Earth’s champions must find their inner powers before unifying for the greater good. The tournament itself looms, but why wait for the official fight? Shang Tsung and his minions employ a different strategy to crush their adversaries at a nascent point.
Two characters steal the show. I expected Sub-Zero to be a bad-ass, but he’s on a whole other level of ass-kicking. His freezing powers, and how they’re used, are spectacular to see. He’s the best fighter and utterly ruthless in every regard. Kano, played devilishly by Australian actor Josh Lawson, has the funniest dialogue in the film. He’s a raunchy, sexist, and arrogant git who lobs F-bombs like verbal grenades. Kano’s obscenities and ridicule of his teammates is absolutely hysterical.
Mortal Kombat is red meat for a devoted fan base. The film hits its target audience with a bullseye of carnage. The characters and plot have scant exposition. It certainly has merit as an action film, but the storyline would be lost on neophytes. Kids are big fans of the games, but the content here is strictly for adults. The violence, gore, and cursing pushes the limits of the R-rating. Mortal Kombat is produced by New Line Cinema and Atomic Monster Productions. Warner Bros. will release the film theatrically on April 23rd and concurrently on the HBO Max streaming platform.
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