Black Mask

on May 14, 1999 by Wade Major
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With two-thirds of Hong Kong's major movie talent having already migrated to Hollywood, it's astonishing that action star Jet Li, second only to Jackie Chan in boxoffice fame, only recently made his move with a co-starring role in "Lethal Weapon 4." This English-dubbed, digitally re-recorded version of his 1996 overseas hit "Black Mask," however, could be his Stateside breakthrough.
A rousing fusion of high-octane action, apocalyptic science fiction and eye-popping martial arts, "Black Mask" falls into a peculiar Hong Kong subgenre best characterized by films like "Saviour of the Soul" and "The Heroic Trio." Li stars as Tsui, a biologically engineered super-soldier who escapes from mainland China and assumes a life in Hong Kong as a mild-mannered librarian until the rest of the so-called "701 Squad" surfaces in Hong Kong as part of a concerted effort to take control of the criminal underworld. Knowing full well that he alone possesses the abilities and knowledge to foil his former comrades, Tsui dons the requisite "black mask" and goes to work protecting truth, justice and the Chinese way.
Although director Daniel Lee deserves credit for the film's effective stylization, it is action director Yuen Woo Ping--himself a director of such classics as "Tai Chi," "Drunken Master" and "Wing Chun"--whose efforts elevate "Black Mask" above the usual fare. Starring Jet Li, Karen Mok, Francoise Yip and Lau Ching Wan. Directed by Daniel Lee. Written by Teddy Chen and Koan Hui. Produced by Tsui Hark. An Artisan release. Action/SF. Not yet rated. Running time: 102 min.
Tags: Karen Mok, Jet Li, Francoise Yip, Lau Ching Wan, Daniel Lee, Tsui Hark, martial arts, super-soldier, superhero, science-fiction, refugee, escape, gangsters, crime, criminal, underworld
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