Black Mask (1996) / Action-Thriller
aka Hak Hap
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence including martial arts combat, some sexual content and language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Jet Li, Lau Ching Wan, Karen Mok, Ken Lok, Patrick Long
Director: Daniel Lee
Screenplay: Tsui Hark, Hui Koan, Teddy Chan, Joe Ma
Review published December 20, 1996
After all but one of a team of professional assassins known as Squad 701 are killed off by the government, the survivor known as Black Mask (Jet Li, The Legend II) hides out and takes a job in a library and pretends to be a nerd called Tsui. He soon discovers that there is another member of that team that also survived and who is killing off all of the major drug dealers in Hong Kong and taking control of their market, forcing Tsui to become Black Mask once again and put an end to the madness.
This rather dark and gloomy film is actually an adaptation of a Hong Kong comic book, and is about as poorly held together as the comic book films made here in the States. The best thing about the film is the action scenes, but these are undercut by an overall lack of color and poor lighting causing everything to look murky and undistinguished. Perhaps this is only fitting since the story itself has the same qualities. The story is at best not much more articulate than a comic book and the lack of character development causes the final fight scene to seem rather boring instead of breathtaking as it should. Li is likeable, but not charismatic enough to pull off saving this threadbare adventure from collapsing.
©2000 Vince Leo