Review: 'Mortal Kombat' fans get the blood-soaked movie they deserve

New treatment of video game property gets a hearty 'hey, at least they didn't screw it up'

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

As a slick, competently made piece of corporate intellectual property, the bloody, hyperviolent "Mortal Kombat" gets the job done.

If that description is overly mechanical, well, so is "Mortal Kombat." Based on the hugely popular video game series, the film centers around a series of fights where the fate of the universe is at stake. A few decent jokes are cracked, the gruesome kills are appropriately over-the-top and it feels like the filmmakers have actually played "Mortal Kombat," or at least talked to some people who have. For a "Mortal Kombat" movie, you could do a lot worse, and probably not too much better. 

Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim in "Mortal Kombat."

"Mortal Kombat" movies have done worse. A pair of cash-in titles emerged in the mid-'90s, their fatal flaw that they skimmed on the violence that is the earmark of the game series and came in with soft PG-13 ratings. This "Mortal Kombat" is R-rated and proud of it, allowing its characters to lob F-bombs and rip holes through their opponents' stomachs at will. It's everything a fanboy wants. 

Lewis Tan plays Cole Young, descendant of an ancient Japanese assassin. He's now a lowly cage fighter who is called upon to team up with a group of fighters battling for the fate of humankind. Along the way he meets up with a Special Forces soldier, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and a wise-cracking Aussie, Kano (Josh Lawson providing comic relief) as they prepare to fight off the bad guys, headed up by Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), who turns everything he touches to ice. 

Josh Lawson in "Mortal Kombat."

Training and fight sequences ensue, and the catchphrases one would expect to hear in a "Mortal Kombat" movie ("flawless victory," "get over here!") emerge right on cue. Bigger questions about the current state of movies can be addressed another day. For now, this is the "Mortal Kombat" fans deserve, and that's good enough. 

'Mortal Kombat'


Rated R: for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references

Running time: 110 minutes

In theaters and on HBO Max