In any film genre, however disreputable and totally without merit, there's still going to be the "best" of its kind. And so, here we are, and I find myself committing in print to the notion that 1995's Mortal Kombat, the film that put Paul W.S. Anderson on the map (insofar as he ever actually was on the map), is the all-time best movie based on a video game. I still haven't worked out if that's a compliment or an insult.

Part of the film's genius - its relative genius, you understand, and relative to Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter, it doesn't take much - is to recognise the scrawny narrative of the source material for what it is: a pretty straightforward gloss on Enter the Dragon, dudded up with vaguely Lovecraftian conceits about alternate worlds and hellish Elder Gods, and a fascination for mysticism and magic tricks that's thinking really hard about committing to full-fledged Orientalism. Therefore, Anderson and screenwriter Kevin Droney simply turn back around and make a Enter the Dragon riff, with hilariously bad CGI pumping up the fantastic elements even more than the garishly fanciful sets dropped on the film by production designer Jonathan A. Carlson.

Bruce Lee being too much awesome for any one actor to compete with, Mortal Kombat replaces him with a trio of protagonists: Shaolin monk and obvious Lee analogue Liu Kang (Robin Shou), avenging his murdered brother; U.S. Special Forces officer Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), chasing an international criminal; and obvious Jean-Claude Van Damme analogue Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), an American movie star trying to prove that he can actually fight. They've been recruited by thunder god Rayden (Christopher Lambert), defender of Earth against the villainous Outworld; see, the mechanism by which Earth's safety has been secured is through Mortal Kombat, a multi-day fighting tournament hosted by evil sorcerer Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). If the Outworld forces win Mortal Kombat ten times in a row, they will be able to invade Earth. And guess how many consecutive times they've won at the time that Rayden recruits his dream team?

Obviously it's all barely-coherent nonsense, but by virtue of being nonsense that Anderson & co. don't seem particularly embarrassed by, it goes down as pleasantly as possible. Really, the whole thing is just a transparent excuse for gratifyingly frequent fight sequences, and if the ones that are most readily called to mind are the ones larded up with bad visual effects, there are many more that are just good old-fashioned fistfights between two well-trained professionals, choreographed with some feisty energy and shot with surprising visual clarity. It is undoubtedly the case that the film's shyness about the gratuitous violence that gives the franchise its whole personality hurts it as both an action film and fanservice, but the relative purity of the fight scenes is enjoyable anyway, even if there are clearly better ways than this to make a Mortal Kombat picture. Christ knows there are worse ways, too.