Mortal Kombat ★★★


Equally as dumb as its 1995, Simon McQuoid's Mortal Kombat has a more plodding pace and grounded story, but makes up for it with considerably better action. The fights in MK21 are far more creative, and shot with much more skill than MK95. McQuoid isn't the next Gareth Evans or Timo Tjahjanto but he knows enough, keeps the camera cleanly on the action.

The fighters for their part show much greater skill, in line with modern action sensibilities. An audience used to John Wick films won't accept the fakey action of MK95 in a serious action film. So Lewis Tan, Hiroyukia Sanada, and the Tasliminator himself take center stage. I wasn't very familiar with Tan before this film, but I loved Taslim in the Raid and even more in The Night Comes For Us. Sanada is a veteran of a zillion hollywood actioners and brings instant gravitas. Tandanoubou Asano and Chin Han are also reliable supporting actors in American action films. This is a severe step up from Christopher Lambert.

MK21 overall seems to be the product of an effort to make a more serious, adult Mortal Kombat. The attempt here is clearly to emulate the feel of NetherRealm's Modern MK games versus the classic arcade ones. Where the 95 film straight up played the MK theme, complete with screaming man, MK21 features Benjamin Wallfisch's amped up, intense version. The internet tells me it is called the Techno Syndrome version, and I'm listening to it as I write this review. It's effectively deployed in the movie's best, most fanservicey shot. I'm not really an MK fan but I could feel the energy of the moment and loved it.

So yeah, Mortal Kombat 2021 is over serious, overlong, and pretty dumb, but I had just as much fun as I did with the original. I can't really picture myself rewatching either film, but this one gets a slight edge just for having better fights. The bottom line is there isn't a ton of big budget, highly polished, R-Rated Sci-Fi Studio action anymore so I'll take what I can get.

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