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‘Mortal Kombat’ reveals hidden talents and wish list of his dream director

If you’ve seen Joe Taslim’s punishing moves in action hits like “The Raid” and “Fast & Furious 6,” you can picture him handily wreaking havoc in Warner Bros.’ R-rated “Mortal Kombat” as Sub-Zero, the video game assassin famous for eviscerating his enemies in gory fashion. But even action superfans might not guess that between filming intense fights and those brutal fatalities on set in Australia, the Indonesian actor and martial artist could be found in his hotel room playing guitar covers of ‘90s R&B love songs by Babyface, Toni Braxton and Brian McKnight.

“‘Ribbon in the Sky’ is my favorite song of Steve Wonder’s,” said Taslim over videochat from Jakarta, Indonesia, revealing his musical passion with a smile. “But I’m shy. I like to sing by myself at, like, midnight.” Note: Conjuring 3 2021 Streaming

After breaking out internationally in the 2011 Indonesian hit “The Raid,” Taslim quickly established himself as one of the top action stars of his generation, scoring studio gigs in “The Fast Saga” and “Star Trek Beyond” for director Justin Lin, wielding a blade in the South Korean film “The Swordsman” and facing off against “Raid” co-star Iko Uwais in Timo Tjahjanto’s gory crime movie “The Night Comes for Us.”

Taslim, 39, has also starred for two seasons and counting as the enforcer Li Yong in Cinemax’s martial arts-fueled period drama “Warrior,” based on the writings of Bruce Lee. (A just-announced third season will relocate the series to HBO Max, where “Mortal Kombat” gave the streamer its biggest premiere draw yet.) But while he’s simultaneously found more versatile acting roles back home, Western audiences have yet to see all he can do. Read More: Cruella 2021 Streaming

It was just over a decade ago that Taslim hit “send” on the message that changed his life. In his late 20s, the national judo champ had finally retired from competitive sports to pursue his lifelong acting dream, inspired by stars like Chuck Norris, Alain Delon and Bruce Lee, whose films had filled him with wonder as a boy. He’d landed only a few roles before he caught an action film, “Merantau,” that took his breath away. After finding the filmmaker on social media, he made a Hail Mary via Facebook: “Give me one chance to audition,” he wrote. “If you don’t like me, just kick me out of the room.”

To Taslim’s surprise, Gareth Evans wrote back in minutes. He was, in fact, making his next movie and invited the self-described “judo guy” to try out. “Serbuan maut (The Raid)” would become a groundbreaking showcase for silat, a martial art Taslim wasn’t trained in, but he was a quick study. His performance as a sergeant leading his squad through a relentless ambush, opposite co-stars and fight choreographers Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, would propel all three, plus Evans, into action history. Note: Black Widow 2021 Streaming

“That was the start of my career,” Taslim said, grinning. Now, in “Mortal Kombat,” he breathes frosty life into the lethal assassin Sub-Zero — a character he came to view as a tragic figure, not merely a villainous cryomancer with a penchant for centuries-long vendettas and crafting makeshift daggers out of his enemies’ frozen blood.

And once again, he’s ready to manifest his next breakthrough role. “I love ‘Phantom Thread,’ by Paul Thomas Anderson,” said Taslim. PTA, are you reading this? Also Read : Shang-Chi 2021 Streaming