Brutality, cynicism and tongue-in-cheek humour mark Mortal Kombat – a video game franchise turned big screen fight night.
The story thread begins with an ancient fight to the death. It is 1617 in Japan. A warrior and father of two carries a tattoo of a dragon. He confronts an opponent who can literally freeze people to death (who comes to be known as Sub-Zero) and does so without hesitation. Sub-Zero aims to end the warrior’s bloodline.
Cut to the modern day. In common with the ancient warrior, the good guys have the mark of the dragon. The baddies are out to rule the world forever and they are on the cusp of doing so. Over the years, the villains – each with superpowers – have claimed nine straight tournament wins. One more and they will have achieved their goal of global domination, free to do what they will. Standing in their way are but a couple remaining with the mark – one who can channel fire and the other with a hard hat that acts like a frisbee.
Into that environment step three disparate characters. One is a career soldier, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee); and another a cage fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) who’s honest but past his prime. Completing the trio is a foul-mouthed, hot-headed Australian mercenary, Kano (Josh Lawson). Young and Kano also have the mark (Young has a familial link to the ancient warrior) and are told they need to find a way to harness their inner strength, which translates to finding their superpowers. Blade is sidelined because despite her fighting qualities she doesn’t have the mark, although it must be said she comes back into the fray later.
All of this, of course, results in a series of confrontations, leading to a final showdown.
The film marks the feature directorial debut of Australian Simon McQuoid, noted for his work in advertising. The best thing about Mortal Kombat is the Aussie with attitude to burn, Kano. The writers give the character some choice one-liners and Lawson milks them for all they’re worth. Above all, he has fun with his over-the-top role, a sharp contrast to the “earnestness” of the others, something McQuoid has exploited to positive effect.
The movie is also a special effects showcase. Those who enjoy superhero movies may find enough to enjoy here. Its target audience seems to be young males looking for a testosterone fix, so the multiple, violent action sequences should find favour with them. Still, it’s hard to move past the inherent silliness of it all. Having said that, Mortal Kombat delivered what I anticipated it might and had the good sense not to take itself too seriously, so cheers to that.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.