Black Mask/C,B+

Artisan/1999/102m/ANA 1.85

Producer Tsui Hark and a group of Kung Fu action film veterans stack a tower of action stunts onto an unstable screenplay inspired by lowbrow comics. The result, Black Mask, starring Hong Kong action movie icon Jet Li, is often entertaining on a visual level, but remaining wholly unsatisfying in any other way.

Nice outfit Jet . ©Columbia

Made in 1996 and dressed up with a brand new dub for its 1999 US release, Black Mask has dialogue bad enough to make you  laugh. Fortunately, the action is often ferocious enough to withstand dumb dubbing and a soporific script. 
     Catch this amazing story line. Jet Li plays a refugee from a government superhuman experiment gone wrong. Donít they always go wrong. Somehow, Li is the only one who isnít a bad guy. He decides to disappear into the role of mild-mannered librarian, but is pulled back into Kung Fu action when his friend, an action cop, is up against a powerful new evil force. You guessed it. The bad guys are also refugees from that superman government program. Thereís a girl to make you laugh, a girl to break your heart and a villain who needs a new beautician. 
     If all you want is action galore punctuated by wild stunts and death defying wire work, I suppose Black Mask will be your fix. While I could admire the kicks and jumps, the characters werenít wild enough to open up my action sinuses. Silly comic book stuff is not my thing. I like the more fantastic Hong Kong action stuff that borders on fantasy and the underworld of dark and ugly beings. Black Mask is too obvious in wanting to combine the success of the John Woo school of filmmaking with Tsui Harkís own brand of kung fu glory.
      Artisan delivers Black Mask as an anamorphic DVD. It looks consistently sharp and even sounds better. The slick images are reflected on black leather costumes and glistening night shoots. Plenty of picture pop and sonic bass provide enough noise and glitter to disguise the storytelling ineptitude. Included in the DVD package are numerous TV spots, the theatrical trailer, a music video, an unimaginative interactive game, and direct access to all the fight sequences, eight in all.


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