Welcome to the evolution revolution!
I never saw the original Black Mask, so bear with me. Apparently Black Mask (originally played by Jet Li, now played by Andy On) is a super-enhanced hero that was produced via a biological experiment. After escaping his villainous creators, Black Mask decided to use his powers for good (this includes turning into a panther-like creature) and defend the free world by looking not unlike Kato from "The Green Hornet" comic book. Oh, and he also lives a secret life as a librarian. In his second outing, Black Mask is still looking for the biological abnormality that has given him his super powers. A supercomputer named Zeus has sent some lackey in goggles to find Black Mask and kill him. Not surprising, Black Mask spends much of his time avoiding death. Along the way he comes across a group of terrorists who have genetically altered some pro wrestlers. These wrestlers (including Tyler Mane, Traci Elizabeth Lords, and Rob Van Dam) are able to turn themselves into various monsters, including a giant lizard, wolf, et cetera. It's important to note that these creatures look and act much like the heavies on The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers TV show. Anyhow, chaos reigns as Black Mask attempts to stop the terrorist group before they detonate a DNA bomb on all of humanity…or something like that. It's all a big cover up for shoddy CGI work and lots of unnecessary exposition.
Little known fact: Black Mask 2: City of Masks won the "Slickest Looking DVD Cover Masking a Crappy Movie" award in 2002. If you glance at the cover for City of Masks, you'll notice stone faced actor Andy On as Black Mask, leaping towards the viewer with a shiny, foil-stamped Chinese symbol in the background. "Dang." I recall thinking to myself, "This looks like a cool movie." I will never listen to my inner voice again. City of Masks is a cheesy, B-grade action flick without much going for it. On the surface, the production values look fairly high: the cast is semi-well known (Tyler Mane, Traci Lords, Jon Polito), the action choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping of The Matrix fame, and the distributor is a major studio (Columbia). Ah, but the surface can be deceiving, and in this case the film is filled with mediocre special effects and make-up, mediocre acting, and a mediocre storyline. First off, the character of Black Mask isn't very interesting—like a Batman movie, the villains are always far more intriguing. But guess what? The villains here also suck. The wrestlers are all hulking brutes who need to take acting lessons (note to Tyler Mane: staring menacingly at the camera does not count as emoting). While I did enjoy Tobin Bell's performance as the wrestlers' boss (soft spoken and menacing), the rest of the cast appears to have walked in straight from a low-budget Hulk Hogan flick (I imagine hell as being a place where they only movie they show is No Holds Barred). The action scenes are choreographed decently, but lack any originality and punch. There's only so many times I can watch a CGI version of a character scale a building before I begin to nod off. Even worse is the "monster" make-up; who thought this was a good idea? These costumes appear to be only slight updates from the original Lost in Space TV show. And then there's Black Mask's love interest (Teresa Herrera), who is so afraid of men that she freezes up at their mere touch. And…well, that's it, I'm done complaining. I've taken up too much of your precious time talking about this dud. Rent at your own risk, and even then make sure to wear a clothespin over your nose.
Columbia has done a decent job on this straight-to-DVD transfer. Black Mask 2: City of Masks is presented in a fine looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Say what you will about the film, but this image looks very good. Though there are a few inconsistencies in the picture (including some edge enhancement during a few scenes), overall the color schemes are bright and the black levels (there are a lot of them) dark and solid. The soundtrack is presented in a better-than-expected Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound mix in both English and French. There was a lot more activity than expected on this track—lots of whooshing sounds and Asian-inspired music pepper this audio mix. While not a perfect 5.1 mix, this is very good for the film it's supporting. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.
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