Jet Li’s black mask is a classic Kung Fu flick from 1996, but was released in English in 1999 to cash in on the popularity of Jet Li after Lethal Weapon 4.
Jet Li plays Tsui Chik, or Simon in the English version of the film. Simon is part of a super soldier unit called Squad 701.
Squad 701 are super strong, faster than normal humans and do not feel pain. But when nasty side effects and dangerous behavioral changes seem to be affecting some of the soldiers of 701, they are all scheduled to be killed.
Simon, of course, doesn’t approve!
Breaking out, saving himself and others, Simon enters the rest of the world and takes up the most non-violent job he can to remain hidden – a librarian.
But when traces of 701’s nasty work starts to become evident, threatening those close to him, Simon decides it’s time to make a stand and stop them, but protect his identity.
Simon then goes all Kato (Green Hornet? Bruce Lee?) and becomes a masked vigilante known as ‘Black Mask’.
A dark Science Fiction feel to the film.
Unlike a lot of Jet Li’s 90’s movies, this is a serious role with a real dark technological feel to it. Even the music is very techno-ish, and sets the mood perfectly.
Most of the action seems to take place at night, and even the ‘Kato-esque’ costume is all black, and ‘The Black Mask’ himself is a very serious character. Being very mysterious and not revealing any information to those who know him, he is able to instantly change into friendly Simon, and does a good job of keeping two separate personas.
The manner in which the story unfolds and certain facts are revealed also has you guessing a little at the start, but it doesn’t take long for the whole 701 gang to be revealed to the audience.
Simon himself is known to his friends as very passive in nature, choosing to avoid using violence while his friend, a local Police Officer, is the exact opposite.
This whole passive persona is a perfect contrast to his violent past, showing how he wants to be free of the violence and fighting, as well as protect his identity.
Action and Martial Arts
Jet Li’s performance is good as always, but this isn’t one of his best.
While I preferred the dark tone to the film to a lot of his other movies, the choreography is a little lacking in comparison to his more comedic films. In saying that, each scene is still entertaining, a good blend of standard action mixed with Martial Arts and tastefully done wire work.
The nature of Jet Li’s character makes him a more entertaining fighter in my opinion though via perception. As Simon seems more driven and serious I find it easier to believe each fight is being fought with ferocity and vigor – something his light hearted performances of the past seem to lack a little of.
With each scene being distinctly different in locale and nature, Black Mask makes for an entertaining watch and I recommend it to all Jet Li fans or anyone looking for a decent Kung Fu movie to kill some time with!
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Black Mask [Blu-ray]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Black Mask on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Black Mask [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Black Mask on DVD
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