Black Mask 2: City of Masks
"I like films that are silly and fun too, but the product here is neither."
Black Mask 2: City of Masks (2002)
Literally: Black Hero 2
Director: Tsui Hark
Writer: Julien Carbon, Laurent Courtiaud
Producer: Tiffany Chen, Tsui Hark, Charles Heung
Action Director: Yuen Wo-Ping
Cast: Andy On, Traci Lords, Tyler Mane, Scott Adkins, Tobin Bell, Andrew Bryniarski Teresa Herrera, Sean Marquette, Jon Polito, Silvio Simac, Rob Van Dam
Running Time: 101 min.
Plot: Black Mask takes on the WWF while being hunted again by his former employers.
REEFER'S REVIEW: While searching for a scientist to help him deal with his own genetically-enhanced condition, Black Mask (Andy On) stumbles upon some more rejects of science that come in the form of WWF wrestlers. Sound dumb? Oh yeah. It is.
Experimented on with animal DNA, the wrestlers sport names related to the creatures they had been infected with. So there is someone so creatively named Iguana, Wolf, and Chameleon. And as imagined, they acquire many of the strengths of those animals and sporadically transform themselves at the will of filmmakers. Yawn. Plus, being the big, dumb lugs that they are, they allow their own mad scientist (Tobin Bell) to give them injections without much explanation. Then they wonder what's happening to them.
Finally, one of them goes berserk at a wrestling match, killing and maiming the spectators only to be confronted by Black Mask. Some to the make-up and costumes involved in the creature transformations are laughably cheesy. For example, the rubber-looking face and arms of the Iguana's getup appears so fake that it you wonder if his next venture would be to stomp on Tokyo.
But, curiously, there are also sequences filled with flawless CGI effects, leading me to believe this is Hark trying to get "creative" again. He must have gotten involved in this sequel because he was bored and wanted to desperately to mix a creature feature, martial arts, and comic book stories in some kind of genre blender just to see what would come out. What we get here is unfortunately an incoherent mess.
Look, I like films that are silly and fun too, but the product here is neither. I am not sure that Hark's style suits the material as much as, say, Corey Yuen's would. This might be what we would have gotten had Hark been hired to direct X-Men?
Some of the problems begin immediately from a casting standpoint. The man picked to don Jet Li's mask, Andy On, has all the charisma of a lawn jockey. His acting style seems cue card based. I am not sure what credentials earned him this role, but it surely wasn't his acting or his martial arts prowess, not that this film features much real kung fu anyway. I would have loved to see Chui Man Cheuk replace Li for the second time since the OUATIC series. The wrestlers. . . well, I probably don't have to describe their performances in great detail. The word monosyllabic quickly comes to mind. Ex-porn star Traci Lords comes off (pun intended) better than the rest. While her character, Chameleon, is completely computer-generated during her fight scenes, she manages to bring life it during a few dramatic scenes.
Yuen Woo Ping handles the film's fight choreography. Mostly wires and speed editing, not much here that is fluid or attractive to the eye, just bodies flying and bouncing off stuff, throwing weak kicks and punches. Surprising how unappealing the action is here considering Yuen's talent and filmography.
Because of this film, I have concocted a theory: Never trust an actor with a preposition for a last name. I have no basis for this theory, mind you, but I will wait eagerly for someone to hire a Willie Of or a Bruce At or Yuen Below or Johnny To (oops . . . nevermind).
REEFER'S RATING: 3/10