Cinema staff might want to check the pulses of patrons after screenings of Mortal Kombat. If their blood isn’t racing there’s cause for concern, because whether you’re an avid gamer or just a regular moviegoer, this film is a bona fide crowd-pleaser.

Based on the perennially popular gaming franchise of the same name, Mortal Kombat reinvigorates the film franchise following Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 adaptation, its lacklustre sequel, and the subsequent animated movies.

The new film tells of a mystical tournament between our world – known as Earthrealm – and a dark place called Outworld. The two are locked in a battle of the ages, with Outworld just one win away from conquering Earthrealm. A team of fighters have been called upon, each bearing the mark of MK, and they are trained to face off against monstrous beasts from the other side.

Admittedly, the premise of Mortal Kombat is complex and the above synopsis barely scratches the surface. With almost 30 years of story arc since the game’s original release in 1992, avid players will have an immediate connection to the narrative while the rest of us play catch up.

Fortunately, director Simon McQuoid has the Cliff Notes and he makes light work of establishing all that we need to know. With an effective opening sequence chronicling an important bloodline, he gently lulls us into his world before unleashing an onslaught of special effects and violence that’s both dazzling and confronting. It’s a sensory overload, full of energy and colour.

Co-written by Hollywood scribe Dave Callaham (Godzilla, Wonder Woman 1984), the screenplay is clever and concise, and with a running time of 110 minutes, he has trimmed the fat and wasted no time; the story moves at a cracking pace, offering an abundance of laughs in lieu of padding. And when his obvious smarts are married with incredible special effects and a killer soundtrack, the result is simply wonderful.

Lewis Tan (Wu Assassins) leads Mortal Kombat as Cole Young, a family man with an unknown mystical heritage. He is supported by Aussies Jessica McNamee (Battle of the Sexes) as Sonia Blade, and Josh Lawson (Bombshell) as the arrogant and insufferable Kano – both of whom are excellent. Tan’s mild-mannered, do-gooder persona is played well against McNamee’s headstrong ex-military gal, while Lawson delivers a show-stealing performance that will undoubtedly become the crowd favourite. His hilarious one-liner insults are laid on thick and fast, and whenever there’s a sense of overkill, they just keep coming and mostly hit their mark.

The rest of the cast are a fun ensemble, with popular characters like Sub-Zero, Lord Raiden and Scorpion in the hands of Joe Taslim (The Raid), Tadanobu Asano (Midway) and Hiroyuki Sanada (Army of the Dead), respectively. And keen observers will enjoy spotting some more homegrown talent throughout the movie, on account of it being shot in Adelaide.

Perhaps the most striking and surprising thing of all is the fluidity of the digital effects. The film is awash with CGI and yet the augmentation between humans and the mystic is seamless. Characters cross between worlds within glorious tufts of coloured smoke and electricity pulsates and grounds them to Earth, all while ice forms across surfaces like a cancer and hideous creatures roar and snarl.

We’ve seen it all before with inferior application in movies like Warcraft and Hellboy, and as enjoyable as those may (or may not) have been, the dexterity and craftsmanship on display in Mortal Kombat is of the highest degree.

Adults can rejoice in the R18+ classification, because there is certainly an allure to that rating. And while the movie is – indeed – very graphic, it does make you wonder how so many films that are far more gratuitous are able to scrape by with a lesser MA15+. Those old enough should see this film, pronto – Mortal Kombat is an absolute ripper!

In cinemas: April 22, 2021
Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson
Directed by: Simon McQuoid