Mortal Kombat (R)
In a departure from the two 1990s Mortal Kombat movie adaptations that will surely please fans of the enduringly popular martial arts video game, Simon McQuoid's reboot of the movie franchise does not shy away from the game's infamously brutal and bloody fatalities. McQuoid brazenly makes this clear in the intense pre-title sequence telling the tragic backstory of Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), which are probably the most effective seven minutes in the film franchise's history. However, all the other departures he and screenwriters Greg Russo and Dave Callaham make are very much to the film's detriment. The fundamental scenario, however, remains more or less the one that has become familiar the last three decades: there's some sort of fighting tournament about to happen with the fate of the world at stake, and the best warriors on Earth must be rounded up to compete. But early on, the tried and true is deviated from, with the primary protagonist not being one of the multitude of popular characters throughout the series' long history, but an entirely new creation, one Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a struggling MMA fighter and family man who is reluctantly roped into the ranks by two familiar names, Jackson "Jax" Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). Under the guidance of thunder god Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Cole, Jax, Sonya, Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) train for the much-discussed tournament that... never comes, at least not in this film. One has to give the filmmakers credit for subverting expectations and trying a different angle with this property, from focusing on newcomer Cole (who, naturally, has much stronger ties to the legacy of the tournament than he realizes) to the bold decision to withhold what all audiences expect to be the main event here. This isn't to say that there isn't ample fighting to be enjoyed here, and, armed with and emboldened by the R-rating, many fan favorite fatalities from the game add gory garnish. But beyond disappointing the fanbase, reserving the title event for sequels that are not guaranteed is a guarantee for the film to overall feel anticlimactic and kind of a waste, no matter how cool it still is to see the villainous Sub-Zero's (Joe Taslim) freezing powers depicted on the big screen.