Black Mask: ”In this world which is filled with violence if you can’t protect yourself, you won’t survive. ”

Year: 1996
Directed by Daniel Lee
Produced by Tsui Hark
Written by Koan Hui On and Tusi Hark
Cast: Jet Li, Lau Ching-Wan, Karen Mok, Françoise Yip, Anthony Wong, Henry Fong Ping, Shut Mei-Yee, Roy Szeto, Patrick Lung Kong, Xiong Xin-Xin, Moses Chan, and Chung King-Fai

A mild-mannered librarian’s past as a member of the super soldier project comes back to haunt him.

Jet Li enters the realm of superheroes in an extravagant and underwhelming action flick. The Black Mask is hardly well put together. It shuffles between a comic book like sensibility, and a faint melodrama. That contrast kind of ruins a solid basis for a tightly tuned work. The sore lack of a cohesion in Black Mask’s script might put Black Mask at death’s door, yet Black Mask if not taken too seriously is a fun blast. Black Mask is a tongue-in-cheek effort that simply pretends to be more serious than it actually is. The humor is surprisingly so self-conscious that some of the punchlines are genuinely shocking. A shaky execution can’t completely shake off all of Black Mask’s merits. True to his reputation as a martial art master, the action sequences are high octane fun. Although, the action sequences fall short of Jet Li’s other greater works since the camerawork lacks a certain finesse. The poorer camerawork could be an intentional choice to make up for the lack of ability of the actors that played Jet Li’s opponents. Jet Li’s natural affable presence nails his character as a mild-mannered librarian trying to lay low. The bromance with Sean Lau’s character is serviceable but it isn’t developed much since a lot of screentime is spend on antics with Karen Mok’s character. But, her bubbly personality is doable and not overwhelming. The Black Mask’s bond with a former pupil of his has an air of emotional depth due to strong performances despite being largely one-dimensional. Any pretenses of serious and deep themes is awkwardly tiptoed for large dumb action set pieces but ultimately exciting finale.

Underneath Black Mask’s icy cool veneer is a loud dumb action comedy that only has one calling to be a popcorn flick. Its dark backstory like its hyper-violence is a window dressing to a one-dimensional comic book fantasy.

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