Black Mask 2: City of Masks by Tsui Hark
The first Black Mask movie, starring Jet Li as a super-enhanced soldier, is a guilty pleasure of mine. It certainly isn’t Li’s finest moment, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Black Mask 2, on the other hand, is absolutely wretched. Andy On is the titular hero this time (Li wisely passed on a sequel), the masked do-gooder in some quasi-futuristic city. Of course, being a super-powered genetic marvel isn’t all fun and games, so he tracks down the world’s top geneticists to help him control his power.
Of course, the super secret Shadow Organization (is there any other kind?) doesn’t want their best creation to go public, so they start eliminating the world’s brainiacs. They’re always one step ahead, until Black Mask contacts Dr. Leung, a pretty young gal (woohoo) whose deathly afraid of being touched by men (bummer). You can practically hear the sexual chemistry (such as it is) begin to boil when he saves her from a rampaging mutant wrestler.
Oh… did I forget to mention those?
15 minutes in, the whole “Shadow Organization” plot gets conveniently replaced with a new one involving wrestlers whose DNA has been spliced with that of vicious animals. Well, “vicious” is too strong a term. Try “silly,” or “asinine,” or “cheap,” or “shoddy,” or… you get the idea. Trust me, by this time, you’ll either be clawing your eyes out or using every fiber of your being to insult and berate this movie, MST3K-style. My friends and I opted for the latter approach, and that may have been was preserved our sanity.
After several poorly staged fights, makeup that makes the worst Godzilla costume seem Oscar-worthy, one tacky CGI sequence after another, clunky acting (that’s what you get when half the cast is professional wrestlers), and tasteless jokes concerning our female doctor’s man-phobia, it all comes together with the grace of a 12 car pileup. It makes one pine for the grace and wit of The Crow: City of Angels or even Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
What really stinks is that two great names are attached to this movie: Tsui Hark, who produced and directed it, and Yuen Woo-Ping, who choreographed the fights. However, you’d never know it while watching this load of crap.
Tsui Hark has yet to make any film that matches his Hong Kong glory days. That could be said for most Asian filmmakers who have moved to Hollywood’s shores, but it seems especially true for Hark. Once considered one of Asia’s most visionary directors, Hark’s recent output seems more concerned with creating direct-to-video fodder for the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme. As for Woo-Ping, this is a small blemish on an otherwise exemplary career. He can wisely leave this off the ol’ resume, what with his work on The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the upcoming Kill Bill.