Linda Cook review: New R-rated ‘Mortal Kombat’ isn’t for little kids

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No, I’ve never played “Mortal Kombat.”

So, instead of saying it will thrill longtime and new players, I’ll address the question of whether it’s a real movie that entertains a non-videogame player.

The 1995 movie was a bore for the uninitiated. But this one, as far as action flicks go, has enough characterization and movement to keep novices entertained.

First of all – and this is mostly for concerned parents – I remember well the earlier show was rated PG-13. This is not, and that is clear within the first few minutes.

Director Simon McQuoid spares us no bloodshed from the beginning in this deservedly “R”-rated spectacle. If you’re wondering whether this is for younger kids, it probably isn’t – limbs rip and blood spatters everywhere.

The beginning of the film, set in ancient times, is beautifully wrought, and gives even a relative newcomer like me enough to understand about what the videogame involves to follow along into the modern-day setting.

There are familiar characters such as Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) and the highly entertaining and easily despised Kano (Josh Lawson, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”) Lawson steals every scene he’s in except for the wonderful Joe Taslim as the chilling (see what I did there?) Sub-Zero (Taslim, incidentally, has revealed he has signed on for four more “Mortal Kombat” films, so you’re seeing the first in a franchise here.)

Also among the warriors on hand to defend Earthrealm is Cole Young (Lewis Tan, “Deadpool 2.”) A mixed martial arts fighter who’s having a tough time of making ends meet, Cole doesn’t know what his unusual “birthmark” means. It’s up to Jax to tell him just who he is. Now Cole must unlock his super powers.

The fight scenes are well-choreographed, and always enjoyable to see. Also, I enjoyed seeing the way the relationships develop between the fighters, particularly with the Earthrealm team.

I would have liked to see more character development, which seems to have been applied to only a handful of the warriors. Still, it’s better a better-than-average romp for both players and non-players. Let’s hope the franchise grows in quality as it goes on.

2 ½ stars

Rated: R for extreme profanity and gore.

Running time: One hour and 50 minutes.

In theaters, including Cinemark, Davenport and Palms 10, Muscatine; and streaming on HBO Max.  

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