Review by Gary W. Tooze
Video codec: MPEG-2
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (24-bit)
English, English SDH, Spanish, none
25GB Blu-ray Disc
•Wushu Technique (text)
• Wushsu in Action (9 HD scenes from the film repeated)
• Black Mask Video Game
• Trailers(HD - Forbidden Kingdom, The Transporter etc.)
Disc: 25GB (single-layered)
Released: September 2nd, 2008
Standard Blu-ray case
Action has a new superhero - Black Mask - in this dazzling and explosive martial arts extravaganza! Following his harrowing escape from a secret, superhuman commando unit known as Squad 701, Black Mask takes on a new identity as a quiet librarian named Tsui Chik. His life of normalcy is shaken when a murderous rampage against all of Hong Kong's drug dealers is linked to Squad 701, forcing him to return as the Black Mask in order to stop their campaign of murder before it's too late!...
More than anything else, Black Mask is a film that exists to display the extraordinary martial arts skills of its stars, specifically Jet Li. There is an acceptable plot as well, but this is mainly a showcase for amazing physical talents. Originally released in Hong Kong in 1996, Black Mask was later released overseas to capitalize on the film’s star, Jet Li, and his North American breakthrough role in Lethal Weapon 4.
Li plays Tsui Chik, a biologically engineered super-soldier. As a part of Commando Squad 701, Chik and the other team members are injected with a serum that makes them impervious to pain and free of human emotion. One of the side effects is mental instability, which unfortunately has caused some members of the 701 squad to go on a murderous rampage. As a result, all members are being hunted down and destroyed. Chik has eluded capture and gone into hiding, in the guise of a librarian.
Video: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
This Blu-ray does not look exceptional I'm afraid. I suggest its probably the age (yes, 12 years can make a difference) and the MPEG-2 encode (?!??!) which we haven't seen for while. It's clean but background noise exists and while colors seem dullish and we never accrue the intensity or brilliance that we can usually expect from Blu-ray. Contrast is, perhaps, overly subtle as well. Now, after my gripes it still gives a far superior performance to its SD-DVD counterpart with detail having some stellar moments in close-ups - but the manner the film was shot does not showcase this feature (resolution) enough. Technically it takes up 17.5 Gig for the feature film. A good note is that I don't see evidence of any DNR filters or edge enhancements. I hope the large screen grabs can give you a good idea of how it will perform on your system.
Audio: The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is VERY strong and supports the extensive action sequences of the film wonderfully with decent range as the rear speakers get some workout. A notch above the image in terms of quality. There are no DUBs or other audio options offered in my edition. I doubt any fans will be disappointed in the audio strength of this Blu-ray - at times it can really be bass-centric with floor-rattling explosions! There are optional English or Spanish subtitles available.
Extras:Supplements are weak. A brief text description of the Wushu Technique and then regurgitated scenes from the film as examples - Wushu Action (nine of them actually). A trivia game is offered where wrong answers display a scene with Jet Li on the loser-end of battle segment. Some LionsGate trailers (in HD) round out the end of this single-layered disc.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a standard Jet Li showcase with plenty of action and an over-the-top premise with heavy sci-fi overtones. It's escapist with lots of fight scenes. I mean, they weren't out to make Citizen Kane here and I believe the filmmakers brought to the screen what they wanted to. It's a decent little adventure with a hero - bad guys and some wild plot points. Accept it or go home - no point griping about it. The Blu-ray underachieves to a certain degree but if you are a follower of the star - this will definitely be the best way to watch in your home theater. It's really not as bad as some tend to make out and the 1080P quality matches the film value. If you are in the mood - you may be sated by a spin.
August 25th, 2008