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If you like real American Hollywood action films with guns, explosions, and lots of baddies doing the bullet dance, then you'll love how these images have infiltrated Hong Kong's movie industry. The story is a quickly assembled Matrix-like tale of a race of military super-humans who have turned bad. Jet Li plays Michael, the renegade. Living his life as "Simon," a librarian, Michael's biggest woes are the teasing and pranks of his coworkers and the romance interest who has the hots for him. His other friend in civilian life is Rock, a tough cop with whom Michael plays chess.
Michael tries to live as a pacifist. But when he becomes the target of his old cronies, led by The Commander, he's ready to "pass-a-fist" right through somebody's face! So as not to spoil his secret identity, he dons a black mask and lets his techno-genetic fighting abilities resurface.
His old lover Kaia, or something, is also a genetically engineered killing machine, and this love/hate thing adds a hint of spice to the story, especially when she gets a look at the new leading lady, a woman so cute and adorable, that I could help but seeing her as an animated drawing. In fact, the look of this film and its cast, though live action, is hauntingly similar to Japanimation.
Black Mask will present nothing new to people used to the films of those three owners of Planet Hollywood (Stalone, Willis, Schawzy). Fans of American action films will already be inured to miraculous action scenes like Rock's repeatedly being not two feet from an explosion and coming away with no worse than some rug burn on his face. People used to watching American cinema will doubtless be able to follow the rapid-fire cutting that comes as fast as the bullets in some scenes. Both Michael, but especially Rock, fully in their roles, deliver heroic soundbytes. Rock gives another detective the severed hand of a blown up foe, saying "Think you can handle this?" Rock, receiving no cooperation from a police computer hacker, puts a gun to the hackers spectacles and says (zoom in for the close up), "Please?"
Friends, American cinema his made the kung-fu movie obsolete. There was about 5 minutes of actual hand and foot martial art in this film, and even that was diced up by camera cuts too numerous to follow. Instead of seeing Li execute a beautiful round-house kick, we see a split-second close-up of Li's boot landing on someone's chest. The art of the body is lost is the art of the camera. The beauty of martial arts drowns in the bounty of military arsenals. Sorry to say it, friends, but Kung Fu films are gone.
There was a preview for a film called Ghost Dog with
Forrest Whittacker, however, that looked like a more genuine,
even-keeled study of Samuri warrior-dom. I was intrigued
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.