Does a capital ‘R’ rating spell doom for films in Australia? Even though we like to think of ourselves as a nation of rebels, our classification boards are notoriously squeamish and censorious, outright banning books from voluntary euthanasia texts to Catcher In The Rye, and also violent video games such as the 2011 Mortal Kombat video game.
Ironic, then, that the latest Mortal Kombat film adaptation has raked in more than $4.6 million on its opening week ($4,637,586 to be exact), making it the second highest-grossing opening week for an R-rated film in Australian box office history.
Based on new data from our friends at Numero, we can confirm that Mortal Kombat is now just behind The Wolf Of Wall Street (which took $7.99 million in its opening week) in terms of highest-grossing R-rated openings in Australia. Whilst the 2001 Silence Of The Lambs prequel Hannibal does technically outrank Mortal Kombat with an opening weekend of $4.25 million, that film was initially released under an MA rating, before being given a more severe 18+ rating after complaints.
According to our own review, the film definitely earns the little black ‘R’ label of doom on its poster. Luke Buckmaster writes that gratuitous violence is “the point…like the catharsis experienced by Colosseum crowds in ancient Rome who watched gladiators fight to the death, or people who attended public stonings and maybe threw a cheeky rock or two, the Mortal Kombat fatalities nourish a profound human desire prevalent since the days of yore: to observe somebody die who isn’t you.”
And Aussie audiences are clearly not put off. The other highest-grossing R18+ films in Australian box office history come from Stanley Kubrick (the unflinchingly perverse Eyes Wide Shut) and Quentin Tarantino (blood-spattered faves Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and The Hateful Eight). Perhaps this proves just how much rare it is for an unabashedly graphic film to attain commercial success in Australia; only established auteurs, or franchise returns like Hannibal and Mortal Kombat, will typically escape the stigma and commercial limitations of an adults-only rating.
If you’re one of those blood-hungry gladiatorial spectators who isn’t scared off by an R18+ rating, make sure you catch Mortal Kombat in a cinema near you. Who knows when the next commercially successful splatter-fest might wallop its way onto Aussie screens?