Movie Review: Black Mask (1996) – Eureka Blu-ray

May 11, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Tsui Chik (Jet Li, the Once Upon a Time in China series, Lethal Weapon 4) is a librarian leading a low-key lifestyle… so much so, that you’d hardly guess he was a top-secret super-soldier.

Speaking of that Captain America biz, his former unit was disbanded due to one of his comrades going completely apeshit and putting a murder on a cop which resulted in the entire organization being marked for extermination.

Now, our hero managed to lead his teammates to safety, but years later it appears that his fellow super soldiers have gone on a gangland killing spree… and since these dudes are near invulnerable, the police are practically helpless in dealing with the sitch at hand.

Tsui then does the only logical thing; he dresses up like Kato from The Green Hornet and proceeds to begin a quest to whip super-soldier ass under his secret superhero identity; the Black Mask!

Director Daniel Lee’s (working from a screenplay by directors in their own right Tsui Hark, Koan Hui, Teddy Chan, and Joe Ma) Black Mask is every bit the hyper-violent, comic book style action romp the above sinister synopsis would have you believe!

If you’re looking for gravitas and deep, introspective character development, this is not the flick for you to lay putrid peepers upon… but if you crave outrageous, often completely batshit, frequently blood-drenched set-pieces with the barest P.H. of a narrative then you hit the jackpot tiger!

And what a potluck it is as we are treated to hands getting lopped off (with zero reaction) zany open heart surgery (is there any other kind?), explosions, wire-work stunts (supervised by The Matrix’s Yuen Woo-ping), S&M kink… it’s heady, bonkers material that will remind you just how delightfully off the wall ‘90s era-Hong Kong cinema could be (although other decades releases are admittedly right up there)!

Now that you know the basics of story and vibe, let’s get down to what this 2-Disc Blu-ray release from Eureka (in their first U.S. release) has to offer fanatics of this frenzied flick…

For starters we get multiple cuts of the film, all with varying picture quality.

Leading the pack on Disc One is the original Hong Kong version (which overall looks pretty damn good, though there soft spots in the pictures image here and there, and features an information-packed audio commentary courtesy of Hong Kong film expert Frank Dejang), followed by the truncated, re-scored International Export version (that was the way I, and perhaps even you that boasts a better over-all picture (with a different color grade), but has had multiple cuts made to the film. This version too features an enthusiastic audio commentary from Mike Leeder & Arne Venema who examine the picture from a fan’s perspective.

Along with the aforementioned commentary trackks, Disc One also boasts interviews with Hong Kong stuntman Mike Lambert, easternKicks film critic Andrew Heskins, and author Leon Hunt, along with an archival “making of” documentary, and a handful of trailers for the film.

Disc Two contains the Taiwanese version of the film that has more talky bits, more violence, and differing opening text (with those elements clearly pulled from a lesser quality picture source), as well as an Extended Cut that combines elements from all of those cuts mentioned above to create the longest version of the picture.

If you dig on Black Mask (or off-the-wall cinema in general) Eureka’s stacked release is definitely the way to go!

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