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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Action > Superhero > Black Mask (Blu-ray/1996/Lionsgate)

Black Mask (Blu-ray/1996/Lionsgate)


Picture: B     Sound: B+     Extras: B-     Film: C+



Just a few years before Jet Li would make his American debut in Lethal Weapon 4, he was making dozens of Chinese/Honk Kong “chop-socky” films, one of the those would be 1996’s Black Mask, which has Li playing the title character, who is more or less a superhuman soldier in the 701 squad that works with the police to solve a group of recent murders.  In many respects this is one of Li’s more popular films for American audiences, which is likely because of its similar themes to many great American classics.  He later missed playing Kato in a Green Hornet film with Universal when their rights expired.  Mark Wahlberg was to play the title character.


As great as the character in the film is, the action is so-so and ultimately suffers from poor direction overall and falls a bit flat.  If anything, the films biggest letdown is that it’s unable to put the character of “Black Mask” into a world that is interesting enough to develop the character and flush out a storyline that holds enough interest.  Although Li fans could care less!


For this Blu-ray release Lionsgate has brought for the film in a 1.85 X 1 High Definition transfer in 1080p and despite the fact that the film looks superior to the previous DVD issued on the Artisan label, it is a disappointment on arrival.  The biggest issue is excessive grain, a lack of depth, and overall fidelity and resolution are unimpressive making the release look more like a beefed up DVD version rather than a solid Blu-ray one.  There are moments where the film is purposefully going for a more B&W higher contrast look, but this should still look sharper and more three-dimensional than it does here.


One a more positive note, the 7.1 DTS-HD lossless audio track makes up for some of the image problems.  While the film was previously released in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on DVD, this far outshines in just about every imaginable category with loads of fidelity, a superior soundstage, more depth and overall finesse with the entire range of on-screen activity.


The only extras to speak of are two segments that are devoted to the fighting style and execution of such in this film, which is entertaining and informative for those who are interested in the style and there are some trailers as well, which overall might not be the most ‘extensive’ of extras, but get the job done and satisfy fans nonetheless.



-   Nate Goss


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