Gory, silly and horribly acted, Mortal Kombat is the sort of garbage that we’ve come to expect from a movie adaptation of a videogame—yet somehow, the film is not completely horrible. It’s bad, yes, but it’s not epically bad.
If you’ve never played the game, you will have no idea what’s going on, and even if you did, you might still find yourself a little lost. This is the second attempt at adapting the game into a film, after Christopher Lambert made an ass of himself 26 years ago. This is a definite improvement on the 1995 version … but that’s not saying much.
The plot involves some business with otherworldly realms battling in competitions involving fire, ice and martial arts … or something like that. Champions with a mark on their body must do battle with Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), representative of some other realm inhabited by videogame assholes.
The weak link here is Lewis Tan, in the lead role of Cole Young. Whether it’s the writing or that he just can’t act, Tan is a stiff—and when the lead is a stiff, it’s pretty hard to come out on the winning side with your movie.
Luckily, Jessica McNamee (The Meg) is a few notches better as Sonya Blade, and Josh Lawson gets a few laughs as the badass Kano, even if his character offers no surprises.
If you play the games, you might get a kick out of the fight scenes—scenes that are loaded with spilling entrails and splashing blood. It’s actually surprising how gory this movie is. Most horror films don’t offer up this level of bloodletting. It’s all banal, aimless and very messy—yet it’s also, somehow, a few adjustments away from almost being worth watching.
Some better attempts at humor, along with a lead who doesn’t make the audience want to sleep, might’ve made this a fun cult offering. As it stands, it’s probably one of the better videogame adaptations ever made … again, not that that’s saying much.
Mortal Kombat is now playing at theaters across the valley. It’s also streaming for a limited time on HBO Max.