Hunted by the fearsome warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is pulled into a world beyond his imagining and realises that he is one of several warriors chosen for a tournament that will decide the fate of all humanity called Mortal Kombat.
There's a lot to be said for lowered expectations.
Consider - the last time a full-length movie about 'Mortal Kombat' made its way to cinemas, it was panned so dearly that one scene in it became a meme. Indeed, 'Mortal Kombat Annihilation' now rests comfortably in various listicles as among the worst movies ever made. This iteration of 'Mortal Kombat' merely has to be competent in order to succeed.
And that, really, is what this 'Mortal Kombat' is - exceedingly competent. Yes, the acting is resoundingly piss-poor, but are you really watching it for that? Are you expecting Scorpion and Shang Tsung to have a deep, intimate conversation about the nature of servitude and death? Do you really need to know Sonya Blade's or Sub-Zero's favourite ice-cream? Absolutely not. Despite this, 'Mortal Kombat' labours falsely under the belief that it's got to find a way to weave these needlessly convoluted stories into action sequences, rather than just letting it get to the good stuff. It's bizarre, because a movie that inspired the game itself was 'Big Trouble In Little China', which had just enough story and exposition to let the action have some context.
If there is to be a sequel to 'Mortal Kombat', and we hope there is one, it needs to embrace this simplicity and forego the desire to throw in more exposition and lore. It's only going to weigh it down. 'Mortal Kombat' is at its best when the main characters are beating the snot out of each other. Lewis Tan is suitably flat as Cole Young, neither charismatic enough nor engaging in any way other than when he's beating people up. Joe Taslim, who plays Sub-Zero, is the real star and the only one who seems to get it. Playing him almost like T-1000 from 'Terminator 2', his physical presence does all the talking that's required. Aussie actors Josh Lawson and Jessica McNamee have a good dynamic as Kano and Sonya Blade respectively, but Kano steals every scene and is so Aussie that he's basically a couple of steps shy of wearing a cork hat and downing a can of Fosters.
Sadly, Chin Han is under-utilised as Shang Tsung and the CGI version of Goro doesn't really have any kind of tactile presence on screen. Along the same lines, Hiroyuki Sanada only turns up for a couple of scenes and doesn't have quite the impact you'd expect. What's more, Scorpion has an intriguing story that's only just touched upon in the movie, and you get the sense that there could have easily been a movie focused on that rather than trying to introduce all of the characters.
At a brisk hour-fifty, director Simon McQuoid keeps the action going as much as possible and never lets anything settle too long. The script by Dave Callaham and Greg Russo isn't the best, though it's not hard to see how this movie ended up in development hell for so long. Still, the power of the movie is in the fight sequences and they're staged and choreographed with a real attention to detail. They're certainly grisly enough and with satisfying in-camera effects and impact.
By no means a flawless victory, 'Mortal Kombat' is nevertheless good gory fun.