May 24, 2024

All the BLACK MASK You'll Ever Need

BLACK MASK (Blu-ray)
1996 / 100 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Bonecrusher😼

Man, I didn’t realize so many different versions of 1996’s Black Mask even existed (giving ol’ George Lucas a run for his money). For this 2-disc Blu-ray, Eureka Entertainment serves up four of them (listed below). But for the sake of expediency, we screened just the Uncut Hong Kong version for this review.

Jet Li plays Tsui Chik, a former super-soldier who was once part of an entire team (the “701”) that underwent experimental surgery which rendered them impervious to pain. However, when they became too hard to control, the experiment was abandoned and the team ordered killed. Some of them escaped, though, with Tsui going off on his own to Hong Kong.

Now he leads a quiet life as a librarian. His only friend is Inspector Shek (Lau Ching-Wan), a dedicated cop who’s occasionally exasperated by Tsai’s passiveness, refusing to even defend himself. What he doesn’t know is that Tsai leads a double life, donning a mask & hat to kick-ass as the Black Mask. 

The Black Mask Bartender.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s big-time drug dealers are being murdered one-by-one, with no apparent suspects. It’s a case that vexes Shek, but Tsai learns it’s the rest of the 701, led by former commander Hung (Patrick Lung), with plans to take complete control of Hong Kong’s drug trade.

Black Mask is a fun but silly film, with a definite ‘90s aesthetic and characters who are generally painted in broad strokes (particularly the antagonists). Right from the get-go, there’s a lot of action and bloody violence…guns, explosions, destruction and, of course, plenty of martial arts mayhem. But while Li’s legendary fighting skills are on display, his efforts are occasionally undone by hyperkinetic editing, to the point where the viewer might sometimes have trouble knowing what’s going on. 

Of all the actionfests in Jet Li’s lengthy filmography, Black Mask doesn’t rank among his best - narratively or technically - but does have a sizable cult fanbase, who’ll certainly appreciate having four versions of the film to plow through, as well as some interesting bonus features.


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

4 CUTS OF THE FILM - Uncut Hong Kong version (100 min); “Export version” (87 min); Taiwan version (101 min); Extended version (102 min).

FEATURETTES - MegaShock! is an 30 minute interview with stuntman Mike Lambert; Andrew Heskins on Black Mask features the critic discussing the film; In Leon Hunt on Black Mask, the author talks more about the film; Making-of documentary.



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