THE NEXT ACTION HERO
Mortal Kombat may catapult Robin Shou into the
by H Y Nahm
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t's been brewing since last spring, this summer's slugfest between Batman
and Robin. The Robin in question isn't the caped crusader's red-breasted
sidekick but Chinese American Robin Shou. He's the star of Mortal
Kombat, the one movie that can snapkick Batman out of the summer's box
office throne. It's a fight to the death, and the battle isn't confined to 5,000 screens across the country. It'll spread to every corner of consumer
market--toys, fast-foods, clothing, books, software, video. It will continue in
Hollywood watering holes as deals are struck to allocate astronomical sums to
years of sequels to come.
Batman is a formidable, venerable action figure. Robin Shou, however,
isn't necessarily the underdog. To see what Hollywood's newest action hero is
made of, we meet him at the Sandcastle at Paradise Cove in Malibu. It's
Monday afternoon in early June and the place is dark, practically empty.
Shou nurses a cup of heavily creamed coffee at the bar while three regulars
talk baseball at a nearby table. Shou stares straight ahead, showing no
interest in the conversation. He glances over as we enter but checks himself
from getting to his feet. He probably can't quite make us out in the gloom,
especially against the backlight streaming through the door from the sunlit
We approach and address him. As he stands to shake our hand, his
voice is soft, somewhat tentative. He is wearing a baggy crewneck sweater
that is a little out of place given the weather and locale. At 6 feet and 165
pounds, he seems lean rather than muscular. He doesn't want to bulk up,
Shou explains, for fear of becoming too heavy to do the stunts in the fight
sequences, all of which he does himself. Stripped to the waist for the camera,
however, Shou displays a sculpted musculature which, he says, is important
cinematically. "My legs aren't muscular," he says, "but you can wear pants."
Shou declines to be photographed doing kicks or other fighting poses.
"That's what everyone wants to shoot me doing," he says. He wants to be
depicted as an actor who happens to do martial arts very very well. He is
obviously proud of his role in creating the key fight scenes in Mortal
In the parking lot is Shou's black and red 1980 280Z. What with the
amateur paintjob, it's definitely not the Batmobile but a holdover from Shou's
youth, preserved at his parents' home during his nine years in Hong Kong.
"I had a 1978 Z too," Shou offers. "My parents made me sell it because it
was taking up too much room."
Shou is poised on the cusp between nine years as a stuggling young
actor and the stardom that awaits after the full run of Mortal Kombat.
The black and red Z, we suspect, will soon be a part of Shou's teen
There's good reason to believe that Mortal Kombat will be big enough to
knock out Batman. Its creator is Larry Kasanoff, producer of True Lies
and Terminator 2. Its box
office potential is piggybacked on the most popular video game of all
time--the movie rights to which Kasanoff had the foresight to option a year
ago. By late August it became clear that millions of video arcade junkies
were swarming to see Mortal Kombat. Twice. Three times. Ten times!
Kombat topped the box office charts with $23 million for its opening
weekend. It has a shot at topping the $176 million Batman Forever grossed
in U.S. box office.