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BLACK MASK ($30) is a terrific Hong Kong import starring Jet Li, who made a huge impact with his American debut in LETHAL WEAPON 4. For those unfamiliar with Li's work, let's just say he's one of Hong Kong's biggest action stars, probably second only in popularity to Jackie Chan. In BLACK MASK, Li portrays Michael, a former member of a bio-engineered commando unit known as Project 701. As the film opens, Michael is forced to escape from his creators when they decided to terminate the dangerous project and all of the 701's. Michael goes into hiding and tries to live a quiet life as a librarian named Simon, that is, until the other former 701ís begin murdering Hong Kong's biggest drug lords. "Simon" offers his police officer buddy some advice on how to deal with his former associates. However, when "Simon" is finally forced to deal with the other 701's, he dons a black mask hoping to protect his identity as a simple librarian. While the plot is rather thin and unoriginal, it is just enough of a springboard from which to launch the film's stunning martial arts fighting sequences. By the way, the fight sequences in BLACK MASK were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping- the man responsible the astounding fight sequences in THE MATRIX. If the fights in THE MATRIX blew you away, you are going to love BLACK MASK.

Artisan Home Entertainment has done a good job with their DVD release of BLACK MASK. The film is offered in a wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. BLACK MASK is framed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is only limited by the quality of the source material. Since BLACK MASK is a Hong Kong production, it isn't as slick looking as a Hollywood film. Still, this movie looks a lot better than most Hong Kong productions, but then again, BLACK MASK is one of the most expensive martial arts movies to be produced over there. There are a few noticeable defects in the print, however there is little evidence of film grain to distract the viewer. The transfer itself is sharp, detailed and should prove most impressive to fans of Hong Kong action movies. Colors are vivid and are cleanly reproduced without any bothersome chroma noise or distortion. Blacks are very accurate, and there is a good level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts remain in check throughout the presentation.

BLACK MASK features a big, loud Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Of course, the soundtrack is dubbed into English, which gave the film's American distributors the opportunity to create the track from scratch. The voices match lip movement fairly well, but how many people will be paying attention to that detail? Anyway, the English dubbed soundtrack has a great mix that fully utilizes the discrete nature of Dolby Digital to bounce sound effects all around the soundstage, including into the split surround channels. The mix is a whole lot of fun, although the track's excessive reliance urban music gets on one's nerves after a while. The interactive menus are pretty basic, supplying access to the scene selection feature and the DVD's extras. Extras include a theatrical trailer, four TV spots, soundtrack promo, trivia game, production notes, as well as cast and crew biographies/filmographies.

BLACK MASK is a fun movie that fans of the Hong Kong martial arts genre will want to check out. For them, this fine looking DVD is a must have. Recommended.


Black Mask (1999)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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