Black Mask 
Suitable for 18 years and over
Martial Arts, Sci-Fi
USA / English
With John Woo having transformed himself into a blockbuster hack for hire, and Jackie Chan cracking jokes in no-brainer films like Rush Hour
, it might be worth remembering how both got their kick-start in Hollywood: through the stripped-down mayhem of the Hong Kong action flick, of which Black Mask
is very possibly the greatest example of recent times.
Easy-going librarian (no, we're not making this up) Michael (Jet Li, now successfully carving out a career in the US himself in such films as Lethal Weapon 4) has a secret. Prior to securing his job among the dusty hardbacks, Michael was a "701", a genetically engineered superman created by the authorities to help fight crime.
The trouble is, the rest of his old compadres have now gone mad, and are busy taking over the local crime and drug scenes. Cue, of course, some explosions, some gunplay and an awful lot of exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, which is where Li, notwithstanding the occasional crafty one-liner, does what he does: cracking heads like some kind of intensely hard ballerina. As he pirouettes effortlessly atop a series of girders on a downtown building site, it's hard not to feel a quiet sense of awe--even among viewers for whom an ability to render one's enemies unconscious with one's feet isn't the first thing we look for in a movie star. Brutal, minimalist and expertly made, Black Mask is a masterpiece of the genre. --Danny Leigh
|Nr of Disks/Tapes