Where do you go from a beginning which is as action-packed as this is? Answer: intensify the action to an even greater level! That is certainly the case with BLACK MASK, a Hong-Kong super-hero spectacle from 1996 starring the one and only Jet Li as Tsui Chik, a former test subject for a secret ‘Super Soldier’ project who, years later, finds himself at the messy end of the stick.

In a flashback sequence, we learn how Tsui Chik (Jet Li) is the instructor of a special commando unit called ‘701 Squad’ - consisting of surgically enhanced super soldiers who don’t feel any pain nor any emotions. Because of this anomaly, the 701 Squad had been in demand for many government missions but after one of the squad members killed an entire team of policemen due to his aggressive programming, the government gave orders to eliminate all super soldiers. It goes without saying this is something they won’t put up with and in a non-stop action packed scene, Tsui Chik helps his fellow super soldier-comrades to escape and indeed so does he. Only difference is that after the escape, Tsui and his team decide to go their separate ways and so it happens that in present day Hong Kong, Tsui is living a humble existence as an unassuming librarian in the hope that the government will never be able to track him down. So unassuming is his persona that his colleagues try to set him up with fellow co-worker Tracy (Karen Mok), a well-meaning but somewhat naïve young woman who never seems to have any luck in matters of the heart due to her poor choice in men. As far as his colleagues are concerned, shy Tsui is a bit of a loner who could do with a girlfriend, particularly because his only friend seems to be Inspector Shek (Lau Ching-Wan) who, by the way, has no idea as to Tsui’s real identity. Of course, due to his inability to display any emotions, Tsui tries to get out of the match-making scenario with Tracy, resulting in some funny moments, especially when he continues to be romantically disinterested towards her but his mate Inspector Shek keeps visiting him the library – prompting Tracy to accuse Tsui of being a “closet gay”.

However, Tsui’s past catches up with him when several of his former 701 Squad members resurface and embark on a violent crime spree under former Commander Hung Kuk (Patrick Lung) – targeting Hong Kong’s drug lords in an attempt to gain the upper hand and control the market. After an almighty shoot-out, current boss of the underworld, King Kau (Anthony Wong), decides to take on Hung Kuk’s gang and if you ever wanted to see an individual taking on an entire team of former super soldiers in a warehouse while engaging in kinky bondage games with a female suspended on ropes, then King Kau delivers!

Offering to help his buddy, Inspector Shek, in the fight against the crime syndicate, Tsui knows that Shek won’t succeed because he doesn’t know that Hung Kuk’s team are former super soldiers… but Tsui does… and soon Shek begins to wonder why Tsui seems to know so much about the gang… causing friction and distrust on Shek’s side. As if the situation weren’t tricky enough already, Tsui, in his quest to fight the nemesis, dons a black mask and a black chauffeur cap (in a nod to Bruce Lee’s character ‘Kato’ in the Green Hornet series) and voila, from that moment on there’s no let up as far as action is concerned. Another blast from the past, Yeuk Laan (Francoise Yip), also a former member of the 701 Squad with whom Tsui may or may not have had a romance, turns up and is soon torn between her loyalty to King Kau and her obvious desire to protect Tsui. Add to this the fact that the bumbling Karen finds herself kidnapped by the Black Mask (he had to do it to save her life after Hung Kuk’s men rampage through the library) and the overall chaos is complete!

Yes, it’s action-packed and wildly entertaining but at times also a little disjointed and illogical, for example, are we supposed to believe that after days of captivity, Karen does not recognise her ‘kidnapper’ is none other than humble librarian Tsui Chik? Same height… same voice… same body language etc. Seriously! Sean Lau displays depth and emotion as Inspector Shek, whereas Jet Li is the personification of restraint as library assistant Tsui Chik though of course, his alter ego Black Mask is the opposite. Karen Mok provides comic relief, with ‘bad gal’ Francoise Yip at the other end of the scale.
Produced by the legendary Tsui Hark, BLACK MASK is a ‘must have’ for all Jet Li fans! Released as a Limited Edition Set (2000 copies only), the 2K Blu-ray offers the fully uncut film version. It’s all nicely presented in a O-card Slipcase, complete with Collector’s booklet and various Bonus Features (including an alternative Taiwanese cut plus the Extended version).