Black Mask
or, HEI XIA) 1996

Director: Daniel Lee

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Jet Li in Black Mask (Hak Hap, 1996) plays Tsui (Simon in the English dubbed version), a renegade agent in a neo-noir urban setting. He gained super fighting skills in a secret government experiment on the human body before heading out on his own in a mask & outfit like that of Kato as played by Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet series, intent upon stopping his fellow super-warriors.

Black MaskOther altered fighters have likewise gone renegade, but are much angrier & more dangerous, having formed a criminal league to obtain vengeance, wealth, & world domination.

Karen Mok as love interest/damsel in distress is cute & comic. Francois Lin as the female superwarrior love interest/femme fatale is cute & scary. Buff boys & bashful babes leap about aplenty.

The sum of these ingredients is a tacky-trashy film but one that is very good of kind. Jet Li is as beautiful as in any film he ever made. The plot is absurd. The "super powers" are no greater than martial arts films tend already pretend is possible. But the martial sequences are entertainly over the top well staged, hindered only by an excess of gunplay & explosions.

It's no more absurd than the majority of James Bond flicks, but the human body is more convincingly inserted into the cinematic pyrotechnics, whereas the figure of Bond is so beside-the-point in the majority of those films that even sixty-something tubby old feebs have played him.

I saw Black Mask at a film festival subtitled when it was new, & more recently saw it on the small screen dubbed. It was such a visual experience that it worked way better on the big screen, & a lot of character is lost in the dubbing. But it didn't completely lose its effectiveness seen small, with cartoon voices dubbed in.

Instead of telling a meritorious story it strings together several action-oriented set-pieces that are as good as they get.

If you want an effective dose of mindless entertainment, you can't go wrong with that powerful little squirt Jet Li as a super hero a whole lot cooler than Spiderman or any other supercharged little-squirt hero. But if you wanted an intelligent film, obviously this wouldn't be a top choice.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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