Black Mask (1996)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts, Superhero Film  |   Release Date - May 14, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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There are two reasons to see Black Mask: Jet Li and Yuen Wo Ping. It seems Li's star has risen in Hollywood as far as it's going to go, which is great news for B-movie and Hong Kong action fans; who wants to see Li bogged down with big-studio budgets, lame stories, and romantic interests? Li's at his miraculous, gravity-defying best when he's taking down an army of black leather-clad gangsters with swords -- and blindfolded, to boot -- as he did in 1993's The Legend 2. Ping, on the other hand, was only discovered in L.A. in the early 2000s, after his one-two punch of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but action fans were well aware of his artistry, if not his name, for years. Ping has perfected what he calls "wire work," which allows performers to seemingly fly for short distances and run along walls, effects put to terrific use in those two films. Which is what's ultimately disappointing about Black Mask: There is very little of the spectacle expected from Ping and Li, although the three astonishingly athletic martial arts sequences are still nothing short of amazing. But the story is confusing -- or maybe it's the dubbing -- and some unanswered questions are raised: why does Li's genetically enhanced soldier wear that hat and mask? To look like Kato? Was this an audition for The Green Hornet?