Tsui Hark made Jet Li the star he is today with his Wong Fei-hong films and this reunion was highly anticipated. It is hard to pin a label on this movie because it borrows from 4 maybe 5 genres. Thrown into the mix is action director Yuen Wo Ping who has also been successful with Jet Li in his career.
Jet Li is cast as a renegade soldier from a experimental "superfighter" unit called Squad 701. This is borrowed from Devlin & Emmerich's Universal Soldier that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme [more on this guy later]. After his escape from the military, Jet must re-learn his "human" emotions. He takes the job of librarian to read and learn while quietly observing his co-workers and neighbors. Karen Mok co-stars as the unlucky in love yuppie who falls for the nebbish with the dark secret. Some people have found Ms. Moks performance annoying but I found her work endearing and sensitive.
Master Yuen has constructed some fabulous fighting sequences for Ah Kit and the gang. Doing battle against his former squad members, Jet is in one kick-ass fight after another as the super-human terrorists try to stop him. There are lots of hi-tech weapons to blow things up with firery explosions. The final fight with Commander Shung is really outstanding!
Co-starring with Jet Li and Karen Mok is Franciose Yip, the girl from Rumble in the Bronx. In Black Mask, she plays Yu-Lan, a member of Squad 701 and Jet's honey in his 'former' life. She does a scene with wildman Anthony Wong where she is bound in full S&M gear and hung up like a piece of meat. Then while all hell is breaking loose around them, Ms. Yip gives Wong the thrill of his life then slashes his face with a razor! I would love to have been at the pre-production meeting when the silver-tongued Tsui Hark ran this scene down to the cast members.
I'm glad to see that the old gang has re-united. Black Mask is a lot of FUN! I recommend that you see it. It may be Tsui Hark's last real "Hong Kong movie"! After this film the director made his first "American" film, Double Team, with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Please note the following:
These items appeared in early June 1997.....After consideration, Jet Li finally decided in mid-May to make the Tsui Hark directed Knock Off co-starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
A few weeks later news from HK was that Li had withdrawn from the production and was replaced by Michael Wong!
Oh, well ....nevermind!
Copyright 1997 John Crawford. All rights reserved.
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