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(1996/1999) (Jet Li, Lau Ching-Wan) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Extreme Extreme *Mild Extreme
Moderate None Mild *Mild Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Mild Mild Minor Mild Extreme

Action/Adventure: A biologically engineered super-soldier escapes to Hong Kong, but must then battle his former squad members as they try to take control of the criminal underworld.
Michael (JET LI) is a thirty-year-old, biologically enhanced super-soldier, a product of Project 701, a program designed to create superhuman soldiers with almost complete immunity to pain. When the project was shut down due to resulting mental instability among those treated, Michael fled to Hong Kong. There, under the name Simon and working as a library clerk, he tries to live a normal life, and has even attracted the attention of his ditsy coworker, Tracy (KAREN MOK).

Things begin to get more complicated for him, though, when his best friend, Rock (LAU CHING-WAN), a rough and ready police detective, begins investigating the deaths of many local crime lords. Seeing that the murders are the work of his former commandos, Simon goes undercover as the Black Mask and attempts to thwart their efforts and keep his friend from harm's way.

His efforts are complicated, however, upon catching sight of his former commando partner (FRANCOISE YIP) who's now one of the villains, and when he has to take Tracy hostage to protect her and hide his identity from her. As the body count continues to rise and the Black Mask battles the commandos and their leader, The Commander (PATRICK LUNG KANG), he takes whatever steps necessary to defeat them.

If they're into martial arts films, they probably will, but otherwise, this film won't draw many kids.
For strong violence including martial arts combat, some sexual content and language.
  • JET LI plays a man who tries to lead a normal life despite having been biologically altered into a super-soldier. In the end, however, he must fight and kill many villains.
  • KAREN MOK plays his ditsy damsel-in-distress coworker.
  • LAU CHING-WAN plays his best friend, a cop who smokes and isn't above beating anyone who's a criminal.
  • FRANCOISE YIP plays a fellow biologically engineered super-soldier who now works for the "bad guys."
  • PATRICK LUNG KANG plays the leader of those soldiers who also tries to kill Simon.


    OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
    While success may breed both contempt and imitators, in the crazy world of Hollywood it also creates greedy movie executives who aren't above raiding the film vaults hoping to resurrect a "new" hit. This has already happened this year with "Twin Dragons" -- an old Jackie Chan film that had the dust blown off it after the incredible and unpredicted success of "Rush Hour."

    Although he clearly wasn't the reason for the success of last summer's "Lethal Weapon 4," Asian martial arts star Jet Li was a breath of fresh air in what's becoming something of rapidly aging and now musty -- but still somewhat enjoyable -- series.

    As such, and despite "Twin Dragons" bombing at the box office, Artisan Pictures has decided to dig up Li's 1996 film, "Hak Hap," give it a new name, fresh dubbing job and the odd -- but presumably financially sound -- inclusion of a rap soundtrack in this week's release of "Black Mask."

    A poorly conceived and executed combination of "Universal Soldier" and bits of "The Terminator," "Solo," "Soldier" and plenty of barely seen "B" sci-fi action films, the film is ridiculous trash. Just like any bad Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movie -- except that an Asian cast inhabits the roles of the obligatory wooden characters -- the film features stilted dialogue, an inane plot and plenty of bad acting (not to mention horrible dubbing and often irritating English vocal delivery).

    Fortunately, the stunt-work is better, courtesy of Yuen Wo-Ping and his "wire-fighting." As most recently seen -- and better used -- in "The Matrix" which Wo-Ping also choreographed, nearly invisible wires allow the combatants to fly, flip and spin through the air, seemingly defying gravity. Nonetheless, while many of the fight sequences are visually hyper, most are rather lackluster in imagination.

    To make matters worse, Li doesn't have the charisma of his fellow martial arts star, Jackie Chan, and with limited acting ability, simply can't keep the audience interested in the proceedings. Of course, even Laurence Olivier would have the same problem considering the inane and "B" movie-like plot delivered by screenwriters Tsui Hark, Koan Hui, Teddy Chen, Joe Ma.

    On par with what some middle school sci-fi/action geeks might dream up -- and that's giving it some credit -- the film divulges most everything we need to know in a lazy, voice-over narrative. It then proceeds to throws in things that are out of the blue -- an odd, sci-fi gun and a seemingly important plot development that's quickly dropped -- or so stupid -- a crime lord suddenly making out with an S&M clad woman right next to a blazing gun battle -- that you don't know whether to laugh at the inanity of it all, or just get up and leave due to its cinematically offensive nature, especially after you've thrown down your hard-earned money to see it.

    Unless you're really into martial arts films, or enjoy sitting through really bad movies featuring incredibly ludicrous and "on the nose" dialogue, enough wooden acting to support a termite colony for years, and a new "superhero" who's curiously dressed like Kato (Bruce Lee's character in the TV show "The Green Hornet"), we'd strongly suggest you skip this film.

    Save for a few decent and occasionally impressive fight/acrobatic sequences, this film has absolutely nothing going for it and will probably make a quick exit from theaters before anyone's even aware it was playing. As such, we give "Black Mask" -- a film that should have remained in the archives and for which Artisan didn't dare screen for anyone in advance -- a 1 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated martial arts film. Violence is extreme -- often in a video/computer game style -- with many people being killed in various ways (from gunfire, etc...) with extremely bloody results and many scenes of often brutal martial arts fighting. As such, some viewers may find some of the proceedings as tense or suspenseful (although most are played just to be hardcore action).

    Profanity is also extreme with at least 10 "f" words being used along with other words and colorful phrases. All of the "bad guys" obviously have extreme bad attitudes (due to the killings and others being involved in criminal gangs, etc...). Some smoking occurs and one scene involves a woman dressed in an S&M outfit who's gagged and bound above a floor.

    Beyond all of that, the rest of the categories have relatively little -- or nothing -- in the way of major objectionable material. Nonetheless, should someone in your home wish to see this film, and should you still be concerned about its appropriateness, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content.

  • Rock has a beer while playing a game with Simon.
  • After a violent encounter, Rock states that he needs a drink and another cop says that he'll join him (but we don't see them drinking).
  • We see a brief black and white image of a needle piercing someone's skin and some blood splattering out onto a cloth of some sort.
  • We see some bloody bullet holes in a man who's shot.
  • A man's face is bloody and blistery after acid has hit him there and we later see the same when more people are hit with acid.
  • We see a large table piled with bodies, many of them bloody, as well as blood on a fan.
  • We see a large, bloody and poorly sewn-up incision on a crime lord's chest (after his blood- soaked shirt is removed). Moments later, we briefly see surgeons/cops cutting open that bloody incision and spreading open the wound (the bomb inside as well as the surgeon's gloves are also bloody).
  • A needle is inserted into a person's skin.
  • We see a man's urine stream hitting the street between his feet.
  • A crime lord opens a box that contains the cut off legs from his six-year-old daughter (that are somewhat bloody at the cut end).
  • Some blood drips down onto the camera from a bag containing human body parts.
  • More people who are shot have bloody bullet holes in them.
  • After being handcuffed, a commando cuts off his own hand and blood squirts out. The same happens when a bulldozer then runs over his leg (blood squirts out).
  • Blood runs from a man's mouth after he's injured by having two metal rods impaled through his body.
  • We see two razor sharp discs partially sticking out of people's necks (which are bloody).
  • We see a bloody man after a woman has taken a razor blade to him.
  • A man's face is very bloody after Rock has broken his nose.
  • Simon has some blood running from his mouth after being attacked.
  • We see a metal "straw" inserted into a commando and then see blood pouring from it into a jar (as he's "emptied" for his blood).
  • More people who are shot have blood squirting out from their wounds.
  • We see large blood stains on a library floor.
  • A person brought into a hospital ER is rather bloody and is more so after being riddled with machine gun fire.
  • Blood squirts out as a person is shot through their shoulder.
  • The face of a man who was completely engulfed in flames is bloody.
  • Even more people who are shot have blood squirt out from their wounds.
  • Rock takes a sheet of glass and cuts off a villain's hand.
  • Rock's face is a little bloody after being beaten.
  • We see a dismembered hand still holding onto Rock's shirt after an explosion has obliterated the rest of the assailant. We then get a better look at the bloody hand that shows the bone sticking out of it.
  • Blood comes from a knife wound in the Black Mask's chest, and then later we see some blood donor bags attached to him as he gets a transfusion.
  • A man's hand is rather bloody after he slips down a ladder.
  • A villain's face is bloody (and his eye is missing or badly injured) after a fight.
  • We see a razor sharp disc sticking out of a man's neck (with blood).
  • We see what could be a severed head rolling along on-fire and then falling into some water.
  • Obviously the crime lords as well as the bad 701 members have extreme amounts of both.
  • Some thugs try to rob Simon.
  • Rock has a tendency to be a bit rough with suspects (considering that he's a cop).
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may be suspenseful to some viewers.
  • Surgeons/cops try to remove a bomb from a crime lord's chest before it detonates.
  • A bulldozer nearly runs over a cop and then does so to a 701 commando.
  • Simon slowly makes his way through the library thinking that someone has taken Tracy hostage, but it turns out to be a surprise party for him.
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Bombs/Other Explosives/Lasers/Futuristic Gun/Knives/Sharp compact discs: Used to threaten, wound or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Eat sh*t," "Freaky sh*t," "D*ckhead," "Bitch," "Idiots," "Hard ass," "Kick my ass," "Jeez," "Scumbag," "Pansy," "Freak" and "Jerk."
  • All of the martial arts action/fighting may inspire some kids to imitate all of it.
  • A woman reveals that she's been hiding a razor blade in her mouth (which she then uses to injure or kill a man).
  • None.
  • A mild amount of such music occurs during the movie.
  • The movie contains many rap songs where the lyrics could not be understood, although one at the end says, "I'm on a killing spree..."
  • At least 10 "f" words (4 used with "mother"), 10 "s" words, 4 slang terms for male genitals ("pr*ck" and "d*ck"), 9 hells, 7 asses (1 used with "hole"), 5 damns, 2 S.O.B.'s, 1 crap and 2 uses of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Oh Jesus" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • One of Tracy's coworkers, seeing Simon and Rock together in the library, says that he believes Simon likes guys and another says that he turned out "to be a pansy."
  • We see a woman bound and gagged, suspended above the floor, but then hear that it's her decision to be treated that way. After a crime lord sees that she's not frightened by an adjacent gun battle, he comments on it exciting her and then carries her over to a table where he lays her down and then starts licking her face and neck as we see her in her leather S&M outfit. We then see her on top of him, biting his lip.
  • Rock smokes around five times, while some gang-related people also smoke.
  • A crime lord shows a box containing his six-year-old's severed legs and he comments on other family members -- or parts of them -- being in some black plastic bags that we see (but this is very brief and he doesn't show much of a reaction to this).
  • All of the violence and martial arts fighting (that kids may want to imitate) that occurs during the film.
  • Michael grabs an attacking soldier and uses him as a shield against other attacking soldiers. He shoots many of them with a machine gun, while their returned fire hits the man he's holding. He then shoots more of them and a tank fires at him, blowing up a box in which he was riding and shooting from. In the process, a military vehicle is also destroyed.
  • More people are shot with machine gun fire and we see a man who's had acid sprayed on his face. Laser shots are then fired at Michael and he blows open a door to escape.
  • We see a large table piled with bodies, many of them bloody and hear that someone is killing all of the drug lords.
  • Acid sprays onto a crime lord's bodyguards and burns their faces. A car then drops and nearly lands on the crime lord, and explodes.
  • Some thugs hold knives to Simon while trying to rob him in a bathroom. Rock then comes out of the stall and violently attacks the thugs. Rock then repeatedly hits one of them in the shoulder. After he leaves and the thugs try to get Simon again, he quickly and brutally dispatches them (a punch to one's face, a kick to the other).
  • A bomb that had been surgically implanted in a man's chest explodes, destroying a hospital floor and presumably injuring or killing people.
  • Thinking that Rock is Simon's new gay lover (she's wrong), Tracy throws a book that hits Rock and then charges at him, causing him to flip her over onto the floor (but with a gentle landing).
  • A crime lord opens a box that contains the cut off legs from his six-year-old daughter (that are somewhat bloody at the cut end) and he tells Rock that other nearby bags contain parts of various family members.
  • A man picks up a ringing cellphone and it explodes, killing him and knocking others to the floor.
  • Some small bombs explode, knocking down more people.
  • A commando opens fire on gang members with a machine gun, killing many of them. Others shoot back at him, and Rock hits some bad guys. He then handcuffs a commando who simply cuts off his own hand to be free. The two then fight with the commando coming after Rock with a knife.
  • A bulldozer runs over a commando's leg, crushing it.
  • As a sniper is about to shoot Rock, the Black Mask drops down onto him and the two fight with many punches and kicks being thrown. That man eventually lands on several sharp metal rods that go clear through his body.
  • The Black Mask throws what looks like two small, but razor sharp compact discs that land in people's throats, killing them.
  • A woman injures a man with a razor blade and then wraps piano wire (or something similar) around his neck, strangling him.
  • The Black Mask fights his former female partner.
  • A construction wrecking ball nearly hits Rock.
  • A gang of men beats up Simon by repeatedly hitting and kicking them. Rock then arrives and beats them up, breaking one man's nose.
  • As Simon and Tracy sit in her truck, the Commander's men riddle it with machine gun fire. Moments later, that empty truck runs into some of those men. As those men encircle Tracy, Simon shoots many of them with a machine gun and a vehicle explodes. One of the men then grabs Tracy by her neck, and Simon shoots him.
  • A commando stabs a doctor in the chest and many cops shoot him in return.
  • A female commando shoots and kills a crime lord and the cop watching him, but both turn out to be mannequins. She and Rock then get into a martial arts fight where she grabs his gun and ends up shooting herself through her shoulder and then at Rock. Other cops then show up and fire their machine guns at her.
  • We see a commando run into a room completely engulfed in flames, and see another man in the same state.
  • Many more people are shot dead with a machine gun, and a fire extinguisher (or tank of compressed gas) is shot in midair and it explodes, knocking many people to the floor.
  • A bad guy fires grenades that blow up nearby objects.
  • Rock takes a sheet of glass and cuts off a villain's hand and then hits him many times. The commando then punches Rock once and knocks him backwards across the room. He then proceeds to beat on him until the Black Mask shows up and flings a whip (or something similar) around the commando's neck and yanks him into walls. Rock then tries to get rid of this guy who's wired to a bomb just as that man explodes.
  • A female commando stabs the Black Mask in the chest with a knife. She then goes after Tracy, but the Black Mask then fights with her (many punches and kicks). The commando then pushes Tracy from a tower, causing her to careen down part of it.
  • The Commander shoots one of his team who falls to their presumed death.
  • Rock, who's fed up with Simon, gets into a martial arts fight with him.
  • Rock holds a gun (which turns out to be empty) to another police worker to make him do some work on a computer for him.
  • Rock shoots another cop -- who turns out to be bad -- several times in a tunnel. The Black Mask then shoots several people dead and then fights others in hand to hand (and foot to foot) combat.
  • Laser beams shoot at the Black Mask from wall-mounted guns as he fights another man. One of them finally hits and kills that man. The Commander then fires a futuristic, high-tech gun at the Black Mask, blowing holes through walls and nearly hitting him.
  • After a person is shot in the arm, the Black Mask and the Commander fight (with lots of brutal punching and kicking). The Commander then tries to hit the Black Mask with a live electric cable that he swings at him, but he gets zapped by it instead. The Commander then stabs the Black Mask with some sort of knife/sharp object.
  • More fighting follows with a man being killed by a small compact-disc like object being impaled in his throat.
  • A bomb explodes.

  • Reviewed May 14, 1999 / Posted May 15, 1999

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