As action movies go, you can do a lot worse than MORTAL KOMBAT (2021), the new reboot based on the popular video game series.
I am not a fan of the video game, or the prior movies or television series, but that being said, I liked this movie. Quite a bit.
The Mortal Kombat video game was first released in 1992 and went on to become one of the most successful fighting video games of all time. A movie followed in 1995, entitled MORTAL KOMBAT, which starred Christopher Lambert, and it was followed by a sequel MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION in 1997. After this came animated movies and an animated TV series, as well as live action TV shows.
Sounds more like IMMORTAL KOMBAT to me!
Anyway, that’s the background. Now on to the movie.
MORTAL KOMBAT opens in Japan in the 1600s, and we witness a Chinese warrior Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) slaughter the family of Japanese warrior Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) as well as Hanzo himself, in an effort to wipe out Hanzo’s bloodline, but not before Hanzo swears he will have his revenge from beyond the grave. And Bi-Han screws up when he misses Hanzo’s baby daughter, who survives.
The action switches to current day, where we find Cole Young (Lewis Tan) as a struggling MMA fighter who suddenly gets recruited by two military types, Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) who inform him that he is the descendant of Hanzo Hasashi, one of the greatest warriors of all time, and that he needs to join them in their fight to save the world from a group of Outworld fighters intent on conquering the universe.
As stories go, this one is really out there, but it is an action fantasy based on a video game, after all.
And while I wasn’t crazy about the story, what I did like about this one was its stylish and bloody action scenes, its lively and entertaining characters, all of which are well-acted by the main players in this one, and a surprisingly well-written script by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham. Callaham has written a bunch of screenplays, some for movies I’ve liked, and some for movies I haven’t liked. He penned the script for the awful Wonder Woman sequel WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020) one of the worst movies I saw last year. But he also wrote the ZOMBIELAND sequel, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (2019), a film I liked well enough, and the Sylvester Stallone actioner THE EXPENDABLES (2010) a film I also liked.
The screenplay here is filled with lots of entertaining zingers, and for a plot that is steeped in unrealistic fantasy, it contains a lot of surprisingly realistic dialogue. So the script is definitely a strength here.
The fight scenes are sufficiently stylish and bloody. The film earns its R rating. Director Simon McQuoid keeps the action sequences energetic and crisp. It’s definitely not a movie that suffers from one long battle scene after another with no characterization in between. On the contrary, the characters here are all well-defined and all have their moments on screen, and the fight sequences serve their purpose. They’re not too long, and they’re all intense and entertaining.
The actors here also all do well.
Lewis Tan has an ease about him that makes him a very likeable hero. His Cole Young is obviously surprised to learn that he’s the descendant of a great warrior and that he’s being called on to save the universe, but it doesn’t take him long to get on board and join the fight. No suffering angst here. He says yes pretty quickly.
Jessica McNamee kicks butt as Sonya Blade, and Mehcad Brooks makes for a respectable Jax. But it’s Josh Lawson who steals the show as the foul-mouthed insane fighter Kano. Lawson easily gets the best lines of the movie, and there are a lot of them, and he nails them all.
Joe Taslim makes for an effective villain, Bi-Han, who changes his name to Sub-Zero as he develops the super villain power of freezing people. Sub-Hero unfortunately doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but Taslim makes the most of it. He gives Sub-Zero a screen presence that makes him one of the more formidable movie villains I’ve seen in a long while.
Hiroyuki Sanada adds distinction as the noble Hanzo Hasashi, who later becomes known as Scorpion.
There are more colorful characters as well, all well-acted and well-written.
Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough story here for me to really love this one, and what is there, isn’t believable at all and never rises above the level of complete fantasy. That being said, everything else about this movie works, and works well. I loved the action, the acting, and most surprisingly of all, the script!
I was entertained throughout, and its one hour and fifty minute running time flew by quickly.
And you can also enjoy this one without knowing anything about the video game. This film stands on its own.
So, if you’re looking for some mindless entertainment, and you don’t mind intense bloody action sequences, look no further than the new reboot MORTAL KOMBAT.
It kicks some serious butt.