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Black Mask (1996)

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[Movie Reviews]


-Jet Li
-Karen Mok
-Francoise Yip


Jet Li is a man who had been biologically engineered to have superhuman power and not feel pain. It was an experiment by local military to create the ultimate fighters. But, when they decide the project is not worth it, they want to kill off all the test subjects. Jet Li risks his own neck to help all the squad members escape. He eventually goes on to build a new life as a quiet librarian, avoiding any possible contact with violence that might bring back his true self. But, he soon finds out that the rest of the squad members are still out there and on the wrong side of the law.


Black Mask has quite an interesting concept. This sci-fi superhero concept looks quite cool from the outside, with its dark, futuristic imagery and Jet Li portraying our hero. Unfortunately, when you pop in the disc, you'll quickly find out that the film has more cheese than anything. A mildly entertaining story and premise is not enough to keep the cheese factor from making Black Mask sink.

A word that I can't help but use many times in reference to this film is "cheese". Lame ass stuff that is trying to look tough, dark, and cool. The first opening action segment with Jet Li's escape quickly makes the cheese factor clear. Not much can hurt a film like cheesy does. It just makes you cringe at times. So, while I found the premise of the movie interesting, it came off too silly in many aspects to take it seriously. This is in stark contrast to the dark superhero look it goes for.

I didn't find the characters or performances in the film particularly moving at all, either. Jet Li was passable, but I hardly got the sense of his inner struggle with his new life and his past. His police officer friend is just a little too much. Karen Mok's character is particularly childish and annoying. Whether these were due to the writing or the acting, I'm not sure. Either way, it turns out for the worse. Francoise Yip's character seems built up too much and then not adequately used in the film for what it is worth. The main villain in the film is quite cool looking, though. It is unfortunately that he isn't built up enough as the bad-ass villain he should be. A good superhero film needs a solid villain, and they squandered the opportunity here.

The action in the film is a mixed bag. Some of the superhero stuff that is pulled off is lame and cheesy. Ditto for much of the shootouts and the ultra-violence (severed hands, etc.). But, at times we see some sweet moves from Li. He pulls of great moves in the film, but not consistently. So, the action excites and bores at times. There are a couple cool set pieces, though, particularly one on this big metal structure and another in a graveyard. Cool enviroments for fights.

Overall, this film is a pass. If you are bored one day and feel the desire to give the film a chance, you may find a couple moments in it to make it worth your 90 miutes. In the end, though, you aren't missing much if you pass on this film. There are better superhero films, better martial arts films, and just better films overall. This film brings nothing to make itself a stand-out competitor in the wide variety of films out on the market.


-Daniel Lee


-English dubbed
-Cut Artissan version