Mortal Kombat (1995) Review

MORTAL KOMBAT! De ne ne ne ne ne nee ne ne ne.

Yeah…you know what I mean! Mortal Kombat is more than a fondly remembered video game adaptation; it’s also Paul W.S Anderson’s best film. Having watched and reviewed AvP recently, I think I’ve seen his top two now.

And it doesn’t muck around. Within the opening 20 minutes we’re introduced to our protagonists – Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), and Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby). They’re soon interacting with Christopher Lambert’s outrageously amusing God of Thunder Raiden. Seriously, how could one guy be so out of place but simultaneously perfect? Then there’s the boss, in more than one sense. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung is some top-tier casting. Apparently he dressed for the audition and performed atop a chair. Legend!

Taking elements from the first two games, MK knows what it needs to do. We want to see the main characters and we want to see fights. There’s a healthy dose of Outworld and some history of the tournament and older characters. But specifically, we want to see the palette-swap ninjas. The story of Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s rivalry is thrown in the bin, but it works here. We get the main special moves and we get the quotes, plus we get Reptile!

It’s great to see the main cast doing so much of the fighting themselves. We get to see a lot of different styles, with Shou being the standout. Ashby is perfectly cast as Cage; his adlibbing feels natural and on point for the Hollywood action star trying to prove himself. But Tagawa brings it all together. Who else could pull off saying “your soul is mine” or “you…will…die!”.

I feel myself greying as I write this, but Mortal Kombat is now 26 years old. A new film may be on the way soon, but it will have some work to do to leave the same impact on the franchise. Trevor Goddard’s Aussie Kano forms the basis of the character to this day, whilst the main heroes, plus Tagawa, recently returned in MK11.

From a snobbish ‘cinema’ point of view, Mortal Kombat isn’t going to win any Oscars. The performances from the main cast are very entertaining, the CGI is very of it’s time (which is fine), and there’s great action. It knows full well what its goal is, and once you add in that absolute banger of a soundtrack, you’ve got a winner.

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