Black Mask

Too long has the big screen in America gone without showcasing the talents of Jet Li and Tsui Hark. Li is one of Asia's most popular action stars. He has actual martial arts titles under his belt, and can easily beat any of the wussy American stars here. The only other time a large American audience saw him was in Lethal Weapon 4, where he easily kicked Mel Gibson and Danny Glover all over the place. Black Mask is your classic Hong Kong action film. Lots and lots and lots and lots of violence, lots of blood, and lots of martial arts. The violence is treated reverently, almost like some intricate dance that just happens to have a lot of blood and people dying. And of course, like many great Hong Kong action films, there is no plot. Well, there is one, but if you were to try and look for it, you would probably get a headache. Hark is a very good producer of Asian action movies. Where directors and producers from Hong Kong (John Woo, Stanley Tong) have begun making American movies, Hark has yet to do anything major here.

Jet Li is Tsui, and enhanced killing machine that resulted from some secret government project. Something happened to the project, and it got shut down. Tsui became disillusioned with killing, and moved into hiding as a librarian, where he could pass as normal. But now, it seems some of the other people in the project are active, and killing people, so he takes on the identity of Black Mask to track them down. There are a number of other subplots, but why spoil them? They aren't much to spoil anyways.

The standard changes have been made to make this film releaseable in America. All of it (oddly enough, even the English) has been dubbed. This makes certain parts unintentionally funny. The awful canto-pop soundtrack present in every Asian movie has also been replaced with rap and hip-hip, most likely to sell soundtrack albums and spare American audiences from exceedingly cheesy music. The special effects are not that spectacular, but the martial arts are pure eye candy. The film also stars Francoise Yip (Rumble in the Bronx), Lau Ching Wang, and Karen Mok, as the annoying Asian woman that is also another staple in Asian action films.

Haro rates it: Not bad
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for violence and language.

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