I am about to start posting blogs about Black Mask. This film was made in Hong Kong in the 1990s, was directed by Daniel Lee, produced by Tsui Hark (who was one of the writers as well), choreographed by Yuen Wu Ping, and stars Jet Li and Karen Mok. A full cast and crew list can be found here and a full plot synopsis can be found here, but, basically, the story revolves around the renegade Squad 701 who are highly trained mercenaries who have had their nerves removed so that they can feel no pain while they fight. The titular hero, Black Mask (Jet Li), has broken away from the Squad and pits himself against them in order to put a halt to their criminal activities. The rest of this blog contains a few random thoughts I have had about this movie.
Random Thought No. 1:
A “… theme began to emerge in Li’s modern-day films as they become more self-conscious; that of the hero as a fiction or illusion. Major has referred to a ‘creeping identity crisis’ in Li’s later Hong Kong films, filled with secret identities and multiple personalities, even amnesia; ‘Black Mask’, the
‘King of Adventurers’, the ‘Angel of Death’, ‘God’s assassin’ in Hitman / Sha Shou Zhi Wang (1998).” Leon Hunt, Kung Fu Cult Master, p. 151
Random Thought No. 2:
I am a huge fan of kung fu movies but one element I sometimes struggle with is the music. In quite a few kung fu movies I watch (especially in movies from the 80s and 90s) I can often find the music jarring, distracting and inappropriate – I suppose I must put this down to me experiencing a cultural barrier. After all, being a white Aussie I am not of the demographic this movie was originally made for. Having said all of that I actually do like the music in Black Mask. I enjoy it for its own sake, and I feel that it helps to convey the atmosphere of the movie. The music was written by Teddy Robin who starred in the excellent 2010 movie Gallants.
Random Thought No. 3:
Black Mask has many of the outlandish and flamboyantly implausible flourishes so beloved to fans of the genre. In this film, the very imaginative and versatile (not to say well resourced) villains excel themselves by sewing a bomb into someone’s heart cavity and attending a shoot-out on roller blades and equipped with a wrecking ball. And how about Anthony Wong’s outfit during his kinky sex scene – animal print knickers and a see through plastic raincoat. Num num. Inspector Shek’s (Lau Ching Wan’s) wry look when he first spots our Anthony in this get up is a classic.
Random Thought No. 4:
Overall, I enjoy this movie and think it’s rather good. My least favourite element would have to be Karen Mok’s performance as Tracy. “Tracy has an annoying habit of shrieking her every line.” (Paul Fonoroff, At the Hong Kong Movies, pp. 591-592). Poor old Mok is just plain irritating
and seems to have mistaken bombast for charm in her interpretation of her child-woman character.
Other blogs I will post on this film contain musings about the style of the film, its themes and its action.