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Mortal Kombat

‘Mortal Kombat’ first appeared in 1992 as an action-packed console game. Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon covering all sorts of media. Books, comics and other merchandise have seen it rake in big bucks. ‘Mortal Kombat’ isn’t its first foray into film. The 1995 and 1997 movies have their admirers with their spectacular martial arts fighting scenes on full display. Don’t expect anything subtle with ‘Mortal Kombat’ as its multitude of fist fights mask its wafer-thin script.

Washed up martial artist Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is on the run. Hunted by deadly assassin, Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), Cole is unaware of his hidden powers. Learning he is a defender of Earthworld, he has to protect this realm against Outworld’s evil forces. Cole enlists a group of fighters, including Sonya (Jessica McNamee) and Kano (Josh Lawson). Pitting their might against Outworld’s powerful combatants, Cole’s team must save their world from shadowy domination.

‘Mortal Kombat’ is Simon McQuoid’s directorial debut. In terms of story-telling, it barely taxes his skills. As a choreographer of high-octane action, ‘Mortal Kombat’ benefits from his visceral flair. It needs plenty of it as the rest of the film is a bust. From one-dimensional characters to the pedestrian plotting, ‘Mortal Kombat’ has little else going for it. One doesn’t expect a masterpiece with this type of flick, but a modicum of effort in crafting an engaging tale would have been welcome.

If you want to see good acting, ‘Mortal Kombat’ barely has that. Most of the performances are woeful. The cast aren’t there for their thespian skills but to show off their muscled bodies and fighting prowess. They deliver on that score as does the endless combat sequences which are very faithful to the game. The set design and cinematography successfully bring out ‘Mortal Kombat’s’ comic-book flavour, making for a pleasing visual feast.

‘Mortal Kombat’s’ brief run-time reflects the script’s threadbare nature. As mindless entertainment ‘Mortal Kombat’ is reasonable without being amazing. Logic and pure drama aren’t what it needs, although it misses a sense of ridiculous fun. Given the game’s ongoing success, more movies will likely follow despite the low-grade hijinks it delivers.

Rating out of 10: 4

CURRENTLY SCREENING IN CINEMAS

Nomadland

‘Nomadland’ recently won a slew of awards including the 2021 Best Picture Oscar. That may mean nothing to a jaded few whilst others have hailed it due to its themes and performances. Living a nomadic existence, whether by accident or design, draws fascination for some. The idea may feel very tempting as a way of escaping the increasingly frenetic pace in which the world lives. ‘Nomadland’ shows a different side to this notion as its reluctant wanderers searchi for answers.

Following the economic collapse of her town, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs up her belongings and travels the American West in a van. Wanting to break free of everyday society, she roams the land exploring life. She meets other nomads such as Dave (David Strathairn) and Linda (Linda May). They change Fern’s outlook and alter her future in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Directing from her own script, Chloe Zhao crafts an interesting essay of a different lifestyle. Creating a new life from the remnants of the old, the nomads in her story have various reasons for doing so. Not all are economic, with emotional and physical scars guiding the restless spirits away from their troubles. This aspect makes ‘Nomadland’ engrossing viewing. Unfortunately the screenplay meanders into other directions taking away from the film’s power. ‘Nomadland’ doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions in seeing the story through to a logical conclusion.

The biggest issue ‘Nomadland’ faces is how its main character is presented. Despite McDormand giving yet another solid performance, her character is difficult to connect with. Her stand-offish demeanour makes it hard to feel much sympathy. Coupled with several slow patches and occasionally unfocussed narrative, ‘Nomadland’ is less than it should be. A plus is the cinematography which perfectly captures the vast landscape as the wild, dusty vistas envelop those determined to forge another path.

Despite its structural flaws, ‘Nomadland’ becomes fascinating when examining the nomad’s unique world. It almost makes a persuasive case for discarding modern life and drifting into calmer waters. Given the amount of awards won, it has resonated with many who desire a sea-change with a difference.

Rating out of 10: 6

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