Big Easy Movie Reviews: Mortal Kombat

Ignore the haters and enjoy this film for what it is.

I’m biased. Every day after school, my best friend and I would go to his house and play Mortal Kombat 3. It was sublime. We would challenge each other to learn new combos, new fatalities, and beat harder fighters and bosses—that is, when we weren’t fighting each other, which is mostly what we did. We also absolutely loved the first film. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it wasn’t meant to be. We enjoyed it for what it was: a dumb goofy fighting game movie. And we were two boys, like brothers really, who bonded over it.

For those not steeped in Mortal Kombat lore, I’ll catch you up with this film’s basics. Mortal Kombat is a tournament to determine the fate of humanity. This movie is a prequel to that tournament.

The film begins with Hanzo Hisashi (Hiroyuki Sanada,) a loving family man, and member of a ninja clan. It’s Japan, the 1600s. He lives in a small compound with his beautiful wife and relatively peaceful newborn. As he points out, he is “blessed.”

One day as he goes for water from a nearby well, he hears a scream. He returns home and taking the garden trowel his wife has just used, he brutally defends himself against the rival ninja clan that has invaded his home. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene that ends with Hasashi’s death at the hands of Bi Han (Joe Taslim), the lead assassin for a rival clan. He is left to slowly die as he crawls towards the infant he will never see again. I’m spoiling very little when I point out that we have just met the future Scorpion and Sub Zero. It’s probably one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie, but not the most brutal.

Flash forward to the present day. In this case, Mortal Kombat is the story of a character unconnected to the video games. Cole Young (played by “Into the Badlands,” regular Lewis Tan), is the protagonist. He’s a failed MMA Fighter, and while he is the main character, it’s not Young who carries the movie.

That falls on the heavy shoulders of Kano, played by Josh Lawson, once the leader of the Black Dragon. Kano’s clearly Australian, a concept from the original film that’s carried over. Kano is hilarious–somehow both a dumb brute and utterly witty at the same time; in his own way, absolutely charming to watch, even as he acts like a total piece of trash. Without Kano, this movie would only be half as fun, and his appearance explains why Johnny Cage (play the game), wouldn’t have fit in this film. Two wise-cracking comic reliefs would have been too much.

While no one stands out quite as much as Lawson, Hisashi, or Bi Han, everything is acted well enough to make this world absolutely believable, with the rare plot hole appearing here and there.

It’s not a deep film, but that’s not what people are likely to flock to it for. Non-game fans will come for the martial arts, and while fans of the game will definitely come for that, it’s the “fatalities”–brutal death scenes–that we really want to see, and yes, there are some good ones. Kano’s is utterly delightful. As can be seen in the red band trailer, he rips the heart out of Reptile, (“Kano wins, you fucking beauty.”) There are several other good ones, as well. Are there enough? Oh, dear reader, there can never be enough in Mortal Kombat.

The martial arts moves are sometimes so quick that it’s hard to gauge their quality. There were not as many standout moments as I would have liked. The fight with Scorpion and Subzero was a highlight though.

Here’s the thing. If you are hoping for a masterpiece, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s definitely better than Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and nostalgia aside, it’s better than the original Mortal Kombat movie. The acting is better, the violence more prominent, and if you’re in the theater or have a good sound system at home to go with your necessary HBO Max subscription, you’ll enjoy it. Mortal Kombat is a violent, messy thing—not too deep, not especially artistic, but it doesn’t have to be. I’d have been shocked if it were.

James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Aquaman) makes films that make sequels, and it’s my sincere hope that this film he produced will have more of them and that Simon McQuoid will continue to direct. Mortal Kombat has a rich history to mine and some genuinely interesting characters.

While it’s not a flawless film, it is a victory for fun, and for those critics who complain that it isn’t a “great” film, get over it. It’s fun enough to watch multiple times, and I hope people do. If you are a fan of the games, you’ll love this movie.

Enjoy the violence, the apt cinematography, the fantastic sound, and the brutal fatalities. I loved it for what it was, and I hope to see more.

Rating: 3.5/5

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *