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IN SHORT: Yech. Sort of...
Cranky knows that there's a passel of you Hong Kong flick fans out there, 'cuz you always e-mail me to say you've already seen the latest Jackie Chan or Chow-Yun Fat flick when it was new overseas. Well, I'll stick to American screens, but I also don't go looking for deep meaning in movies meant strictly to entertain...
And did you think for a second that, after his showstopper performance in Lethal Weapon 4, that I wouldn't head out to see Black Mask starring Jet Li? Cranky paid hard earned (and we do mean hard earned -- this site don't generate too many beans) cash for Black Mask, which wasn't screened for us reviewers. It may be 'cuz the hero wears a long black coat and funny hat -- heck, the bad guys wear long black coats, too -- and there's way too much gunfire not to inspire idiot media critics to reference the recent events in Colorado.
As I've said elsewhere, those media critics are idiots.
Briefly: "Two years ago" the authorities in Hong Kong created a league of supersoldiers, the 701 squad. Injected with an experimental serum, the members of the squad developed phenomenal speed and physical power. Problem was, many of 'em went totally loopy. As Black Mask begins, the government sends in the army to destroy the squad. Only "Michael" seems to have survived. Taking the alias "Simon" he finds a new life as a pacifist librarian, lust object of the ditzy Tracy (Karen Mok) and friend to police Detective Rock (Lau Ching Wan).
Other members of The Squad, actually dozens and dozens of 'em, have survived and are taking out the drug mob in bloody and gruesome ways. Donning a mask that makes him look like Green Hornet sidekick Kato, the "Black Mask" goes hunting for his former teammates and comes up against former love of his life Gailen (Francoise Yip), who he saves only to find that she has been assigned to kill him. [The spelling of that last character name is a guess. The notes give the original Hong Kong release name, "Yeuk-lan" which doesn't come close to the pronunciation used in the English dub.]
Thank God for press notes. The story is, as described by the couple behind me, "flat out stupid". Black Mask features a barely distinguishable plot, some cheap laffs, and lots of blood, bullets and body parts. While there is a helluva lot more gunfire than Jet Li martial arts fisticuffs, some of Li's action sequences are high flying and truly cool looking. Director Daniel Lee spoils most of 'em with fancy camera angles and moving camera shots. The English language dub only falls out of sync once but the sound mix, in general, bites. A ton of hip hop music has been added to the background which means, if you're into that, you're better off buying the Tommy Boy soundtrack.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Black Mask, he would have paid...
If you want to see Black Mask for Jet Li's work, wait and rent. Aficionados of Hong Kong flicks are already used to wretched stories and holey plots that serve only to get you to the action sequences. If you have no other expectations, well, it's your cash.
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