Mortal Kombat’s Kano actor Josh Lawson on ad-libbing a classic game line

Regardless of paternal and political hand-wringing over ripped-out spines and characters clutching still-beating hearts, the Mortal Kombat video games have actually constantly had a ridiculous side. Even the contemporary video games’ gruesome, now photorealistic casualties, where a crumpled fighter’s intestinal tracts are taken out of their mouth by magic, objective to provoke a make fun of the absurdity of all of it.

Individuals who made the brand-new Mortal Kombat motion picture get that. Sure, the fate of Earth’s presence hangs in the balance of an interdimensional martial arts competitors in between gods and sorcerers, however it likewise leans into Mortal Kombat’s fondness for goofiness.

The movie’s director, Simon McQuoid, stated he and the innovative group approached incorporating funny — and silliness — into Mortal Kombat “very carefully.”

“Silly humor is, like, the most potent ingredient — far more potent than the violence, far more potent than anything,” McQuoid informed me in an interview last month. “A drop goes a long way. So early on, what was really important to me was that the comedy is housed in a character; it’s not sprayed across the top of the film. When you’re trying to take certain elements of the canon really seriously, you can’t then in the next scene feel like it’s made from people trying to make a comedy.”

The character McQuoid is describing because quote is Kano, played by star Josh Lawson, the mercenary sleazebag who signs up with Raiden’s group in the battle versus Outworld and Shang Tsung’s warriors. He’s one of the standout characters in Mortal Kombat, and like the movie’s beginner, Cole Young, guides the audience through the motion picture’s years-long supernatural tradition.

McQuoid likewise kept in mind that there’s a “fun-ness” to the ingenuity of bloody, excessive action that a franchise like Mortal Kombat can make use of.

“We’ve tried to get that across within certain fights or within action set pieces — let’s talk about [Sub-Zero’s] blood blade for a moment,” McQuoid stated. “You wouldn’t put that in the funny classification. It is the sort of enjoyable elevation that is sort of ridiculous as a concept, however I wished to do it in a manner that makes you sort of think, ‘Fuck yeah, that’s cool!’ I didn’t desire you to go ‘Eh, that’s sort of cheese.’ So there’s methods to do it where it feels cheese and there’s methods to do it where you go, ‘Oh my god, that looks fuckin’ terrific.’ … So it’s a matter of taking these ingredients and balancing them.

An animated GIF of Sub-Zero stabbing Scorpion with a knife made of frozen blood

Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment

“And then the other side of that comedy comes from Josh Lawson and Kano. Kano is a dark character, but he’s a funny character and … he brings a great deal of fun to proceedings. That’s a really important ingredient to Mortal Kombat.”

Lawson described his take on Kano as both “juvenile” and “earnest.” Sure, he’s a vicious contract killer capable of ripping someone’s actual heart out, but he also offers comic relief and (unexpectedly) centers the film when he revels in the possibility of getting super powers. Kano’s fun to watch.

“Comedy’s necessary in any film, I think, particularly in this genre,” Lawson told me in an interview earlier this month. “I hope that [Kano] feels true to how he was created in the games and how he’s evolved over the years. It was always a juggling act. It was, like, bring the comedy but don’t bring so much that it leaves the world of Mortal Kombat, you know?”

Kano’s comic chops are evident in the Mortal Kombat movie’s first trailer, in which he holds up the bloody heart of Shang Tsung’s assassin Syzoth — better known as Reptile — and declares gleefully, “Kano wins!” It’s just far enough from cheese to work.

McQuoid and Lawson credit third assistant director Greg Tynan — “a massive Mortal Kombat fan,” McQuoid said — with getting that silly line into the film, which wasn’t in the script.

“We were doing a bunch of [alternate takes] at the end there with the heart rip,” Lawson said. “And we were just enjoying ourselves and sort of going, ‘Hey, is there anything else? Any anyone have any ideas?’ There was a whisper from the back of the room that was like, ‘Um, maybe “Kano wins”?’ And I remember Simon and I looking at each other going, ‘That’s terrific! How did we not think of that?’ Of course, [Kano] is such a narcissist, he would talk about himself in third-person. And I think we did one take of that and that’s the take that ended up in the film.”

Kano holds Reptile’s heart in a still from Mortal Kombat (2021)

Image: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Mortal Kombat is peppered (not sprayed) with moments like that. There are on-the-nose catchphrase line reads, sure, however some of the movie’s in-jokes are more subtle (and not worth spoiling). But Kano is a consistent comic streak through the film by design, said Mortal Kombat screenwriter Greg Russo.

“With Mortal Kombat being fun and having lots of humor in it, we wanted to embrace that,” Russo said in an interview with Polygon. “We wanted you to be smiling and having a good time through the movie. Kano felt like such a enjoyable way to add some of that in there because he’s such a bastard. He’s such a smug asshole. We have our heroes, we have our new hero Cole, we have Sonya, we have Jax, we have Liu Kang, Kung Lao — it’s loaded with the good guys. And to me, from a storytelling perspective, I always love when they throw in like one real jerky character into the mix. It breaks up the good guy feeling.

“So Kano became that kind of great character where we just let him run with it. He’s constantly a pain in the ass for the heroes.”


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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.