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Black Mask
cast: Jet Li, Karen Mok, and Lau Ching-wan

director: Daniel Lee

83 minutes (18) 1996
BMG DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Budget priced release for the Hong Kong actioner produced by Tsui Hark, this superhero thriller is in the mould of Darkman and Batman with engaging postmodern riffs on a host of comicbook characters.
   The plot is rudimentary. Former surgically changed agent Tsui (played by Jet Li) of the formidable '701 Squad' assassination team, has quit his life of danger and death to work as a librarian. However, he's forced out of retirement and into the role of masked vigilante when his old squad attempt to conquer the world's drug trade. With local cops unable to stop killers that feel no pain, heroic 'Black Mask' must destroy all the villains, save the hostage (new) girlfriend and deal with his old flame, who's become a fiendish dominatrix since he saw her last!
   Black Mask is great because it starts by breaking the action genre speed limit and then just keeps right on going. To say this is fast and furious may be a classic understatement. The violence is bloodthirsty and gruesome in ways Hollywood's thriller makers would doubtless find offensive. The level of dark humour aims for the throat, and then reaches down to churn and splatter guts. Casual brutality, impossible acrobatics styled after The Matrix, and notable SF references (such as Frankenstein) are key elements in this lively adventure's success.
   Whether you're a fan of kung fu movies or superhero comics, I'm sure you will enjoy this DVD, but it has no extras - only Dolby digital 2.0 sound, quite passably dubbed into English, and the usual chaptering.
Jet Li also stars in Kiss Of The Dragon and The One.