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Joe Taslim explains his ‘Mortal Kombat’ villain’s mask, rage

There’s one problem with having a legit martial arts actor like Joe Taslim play the uber-villain Sub-Zero in the new “Mortal Kombat” movie: He was too fast for the mask.

Legions of “Mortal Kombat” video game fans would demand their cold-harnessing, frozen-hearted assassin wear his signature mask in the film adaptation (in theaters Friday and streaming on HBO Max Friday) just like the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” film.

But the mask couldn’t keep up with Taslim, 39, a member of his native Indonesia’s national judo team from 1997 to 2009. “When I moved so fast, the mask would only follow,” says Taslim. “It was quite a challenge fighting like that.”

After it was reengineered for Taslim’s head speed, the visage stayed, keeping the mystery. So who is the man behind Sub-Zero’s mask? The thoughtful Taslim answered our questions and explained his notorious alter-ego:

Why Sub-Zero needs that rad mask

The origin story behind the assassin’s face apparel is not explained in “Mortal Kombat.” But Taslim’s warrior, initially maskless and called Bi-Han, kill Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the rival warrior’s wife and kid. That’s all in the first five minutes. After that, he’s masked and transformed to Sub-Zero.

Taslim has pondered this brutal killing for Sub-Zero motivation and has a mask theory (Hint: It’s not about looking rad). “For me, it’s not just for the sake of coolness,” says Taslim.  “After Bi-Han killed Hanzo and his family, that’s probably the first time he killed a little kid. So every time he looks at himself in a mirror, the nightmare just pops out. So that’s why the mask, to hide the pain and all the guilt.  And he goes from Bi-Han to Sub-Zero.”

Why Sub-Zero has so much rage

“Mortal Kombat” is too busy introducing extreme warriors and more extreme ways of killing them off to get into feelings and backstory. But Sub-Zero has serious, unexplained rage issues. Taslim’s thought? “My approach is pain.”

Not the pain Sub-Zero delivers to his foes, but his character’s inner pain after he and his brother were abducted as children and trained to be assassins. Once again, part of the character’s lore, not addressed in the movie.

“A lot of tragic things happen to him since he was born, a lot of pain,” says Taslim. “I didn’t choose the path to be an assassin. I was abducted when I was a kid. That’s the energy I show in my performance. This rage and anger are combined into one whole energy.”

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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