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Pet Sins June 2000

Black Mask

This 1996 movie produced by Tsui Hark has no positive female characters.


Jet Li plays Tsui, the "teacher" of a secret military squad whose members were biologically engineered to feel no pain. When the squad is deemed a failed experiment and marked for destruction, Tsui escapes and reinvents himself as a geeky librarian in Hong Kong. Colleague Tracy develops a crush on him.

Tracy has the stereotypical "female" qualities of talking too much and not controlling her emotions. First, she tries to physically attack Tsui's policeman friend Shi (Rock) over rumors that Shi is Tsui's homosexual lover. Then, later, as she is held in a safehouse by Black Mask, she chatters endlessly to him about her crush on Tsui (who, unknown to her, happens to be Black Mask). The "airhead" type is very common in Hong Kong movies.

Tsui was not the only member of 701 Squad who escaped. Some of his former teammates have now formed a crime empire poised to take over the Asian drug trade. Their trademark grisly killings are now terrorizing Hong Kong underworld crimebosses and baffling cops.

The other main female character is played by the big-busted Francois Yip. We first see Yip as the "captive" of mobster King Kao, who had just received his daughter's legs in a box from the 701 Squad. Yip is tied up and hung from a meat hook. The mobster thinks it is inevitable that 701 Squad would kill him as promised, and so proceeds to have his "last lay" with Yip. It turns out that Yip is a member of the 701 Squad. In a particularly revolting scene featuring King Kao in a transparent raincoat, Yip deftly maneuvers a razor out of her mouth with her tougue and slits the mobster's throat.

The only socially redeeming thing about this movie is the close friendship between Tsui and Shi. Shi, believing Tsui to be a gentle geek, takes on the task of rescuing him from small time crooks. Tsui, in turn, endeavours to save the life of his best friend by donning the Black Mask and taking on his former comrades from the 701 Squad.

Despite the B-grade movie's cheesy tone, the dialogue between the 2 men offers the viewer a glimpse into the men's emotional state. This quality is definitely absent in American-made B-grade action flicks . Committed non-sexual relations between men are standard fare in Hong Kong movies, a refreshing change from the superficial, evasive treatment of male bonding in Hollywood. Western-derived homophobic perspectives are apparently not as deeply ingrained in the East.