Black Mask (1996) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (FCCA)
One of Jet Li’s final Hong Kong film before heading for Lethal Weapon stardom plays like a Hollywood popcorn action comic book hero blockbuster. Always a pleasure to witness Li don similar black mask as the legendary Bruce Lee’s Kato. For Li fans, the film action sequences and storyline is probably subpar to his stellar 90s effort that includes Once Upon a Time in China series, Fong Sai Yuk and Fist of Legend, only to name a few classics. However, the original non-English dubbed version remains highly entertaining, non stop adrenaline action and almost welcoming to see Li play a super hero role for once.
Li as usually carries the film well with his own screen charisma that largely explains how his transition to Hollywood remains the most successful after Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. The film was actually re-released in Hollywood years after, completely re-dubbed and cut to almost comical effect. Here we see Li plays the stoic character that is unable to feel pain and possibly love that makes one human. Together with Lau Ching Wan (rare action role) who plays the chief inspector cop, they battle the super humans crime bosses. Karen Mok appears annoying and overacts and TVB Moses Chan makes a surprisingly unnoticeable cameo. Canadian Chinese actress Francoise Yip as usual is a joy to watch and one must wonder why her career never really took off despite starring in key roles alongside Li and Chan (Rumble in the Bronx). It’s a shame as Yip is easy on the eye and posses the looks of a female fatale.
All in all, director Daniel Lee crafted a different style of action, from the normal Jet Li’s movie, but it works well as a mini action blockbuster. I don’t think we appreciate movies like Black Mask enough, produces on a fraction of a Hollywood blockbuster, the quality and cast and set pieces are nothing to frown upon, in fact it holds well comparing to nowadays CGI induced action cinema. Entertaining action film by all means.
I rate it 7.5/10