Thursday, December 13, 2012

Case Study No. 0685: Staff of Unnamed Library (Black Mask)

Jet Li Black Mask 1
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[scene opens with a masked man sneaking onto a military base, while a crawl across the screen displays the following text: "Once upon a time in a certain country up north, a special combat team named Squad 701 was formed. In this experiment, all team members were given brain surgery to remove their nerves, as a result they can feel no pain. Thus making Squad 701 a team of invincible warriors. However, without the sensation of pain, members are prone to over exert themselves, resulting in massive internal bleeding. This experiment was finally considered a failure and all members must be destroyed. One member is the Black Mask."]
SECURITY GUARD: [from off camera] There is a warning to the 701 team member. You have entered the prohibited zone of the military base. Do not proceed further. Surrender now. We will escort you back to the Experiment Block.
[cut to Black Mask using a blowtorch to open a large iron door and enter the base]
SECURITY GUARD: [from off camera] We are acting under a special permission to kill. Any counter attack will result in a full force attack.
[camera pans around to reveal that he is surrounded by several heavily armed guards]
SECURITY GUARD: You are surrounded! Drop your weapons and surrender at once!
[the guards move forward to apprehend him, but he manages to kill them all single-handedly as the credits roll]
[the title screen appears, reading "This person has been erased! Black Mask", then the scene changes to a library in Hong Kong]
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] I adopt a new identity. My name is now Tsui Chik. I am the librarian here.
[the camera pans over to Black Mask - without the mask - sitting at his desk, reading a book]
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] For me, this is the perfect place. Here, I can look up anything that interests me. Also, there are usually hardly anyone around ... except for those few nosey people.
[he looks over at the rest of the library staff - the older male head of the library, three younger male librarians, and one female part time worker - sitting at the computer terminals]
LIBRARY CHIEF: No, you've typed wrongly again!
[he points at one of the male librarians typing at his computer, when the woman suddenly starts crying]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Shh, Tracy ... It's not your first time, take it easy!
TRACY: But this has got to be a new record! I got dumped even before I find out his name!
[he looks around nervously, and continues to try and calm her down]
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] The one who's crying is Tracy. Nicknamed "Update," he claims she's always at the forefront of fashion, and she specializes at falling in and out of love. That's why she cries a lot.
[the library chief tries to stop her from crying by doing a magic trick with a handkerchief in his hand]
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] This is the chief of the library. He looks tough, but deep down, he's really a good guy. He likes to joke a lot.
[Tracy pushes him away and continues crying, as "Tsui Chik" places some books on the bookcart]
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] As for me, this is the best shelter for me. It allows me to quietly search for the most basic quality in a human ... Feeling.
[cut back to the male librarians trying to console Tracy]
LIBRARIAN 1: Tracy, you should know better than anyone else, good looking hunks are the worst lot!
[the librar chief nods in agreement]
TRACY: But he's only five-foot-two ... How can he be a hunk?
LIBRARIAN 2: He must be rich, then. Rich men are just as bad.
TRACY: For me, if he's not a hunk, he'd better be rich! If he has neither, who wants him?
LIBRARY CHIEF: I want someone for his personality ... Tracy, be practical. Find someone who is common. You never know, this someone may just be around the corner.
[she suddenly gets up with an appalled look on her face]
TRACY: Wait! I hope you are not referring to yourselves?
LIBRARY CHIEF: No, no! Aren't we kind to you?
LIBRARIAN 3: Maybe just a casual relationship ...
[she cringes]
TRACY: Actually, do you have someone in mind?
[the chief looks over at Black Mask pushing a bookcart]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Over there ...
[he looks up and sees them all staring at him, so he nervously laughs and waves to them]
[they all wave back, so Black Mask continues pushing the cart to a different part of the library ... when he's out of sight, Tracy gives the chief a shocked look]
TRACY: That piece of wood?
[he nods, then Tracy starts to laugh]
TRACY: A real nerd!
[she turns and shivers with disgust at the idea]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Tracy, haven't you suffered enough from those heartless guys?
LIBRARIAN 3: That's right. Tsui Chik, he's always here, I never see him go out.
[cut to Black Mask shelving books]
LIBRARIAN 3: [from off camera] He must have saved up a lot of money. He doesn't smoke or drink ...
[cut back to the librarians with Tracy]
LIBRARIAN 3: Doesn't gamble, either.
TRACY: How can you be sure that he doesn't gamble?
LIBRARY CHIEF: [pause] Tsui Chik!
[he turns and looks at them]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Come over here!
[he leaves the cart behind and heads towards them]
BLACK MASK: Yes, chief?
LIBRARY CHIEF: Let's play mahjong after work!
BLACK MASK: Don't you have enough players already?
[he points at one of the other librarians]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Szeto's got a date ...
LIBRARIAN 2: So, what do you say? Be a good sport!
BLACK MASK: Normally, how much can you win in one game?
LIBRARY CHIEF: You can win three hundred to five hundred dollars on a very lucky night!
[he reaches into his pocket and takes out a wad of cash, as the chief looks over to Tracy and smiles]
LIBRARY CHIEF: [whispers] Hooked!
[Black Mask hands some of his money to the chief]
BLACK MASK: Here's three hundred ... Alright, consider me having lost!
[the chief looks stunned, while another librarian grabs the money]
LIBRARIAN 1: I'll take it!
BLACK MASK: I really don't know the game, and I've a lot of books I must read--
[Tracy pushes her way past the librarians and confronts him]
TRACY: That's ridiculous! How can you hand over your money just like that?
BLACK MASK: I hardly ever spend money anyway ...
[he turns to the chief]
BLACK MASK: I'll go sort out the books.
[he returns to his cart and pushes it away]
LIBRARIAN 2: Tsui Chik ...
[they all look at Black Mask as he walks away]
LIBRARY CHIEF: How can anyone love reading so much?
TRACY: These days, a man like this only exists in fictions ...
LIBRARIAN 2: This kind of man is like dinosaur ...
LIBRARIAN 1: You better act quickly!
[cut back to Black Mask shelving more books]
LIBRARIAN 2: [from off camera] Loving him or not is another matter. Just take it as gambling. Just like playing mahjong!
[cut back to the librarians and Tracy]
LIBRARY CHIEF: Right ... Even you two have to break up in future. You can brush him off first! Don't hesitate anymore, act now!
LIBRARIAN 3: Ask him for a date! Hurry up!
LIBRARY CHIEF: Right, date him!
[they all push her towards Black Mask]
TRACY: [hesitating] Tsui ... Tsui!
[he turns and looks at her, as she gives a nervous laugh]
TRACY: Chik!
[he takes his earphones out, as she continues to hesitate]
TRACY: I'm wondering, uh ...
[Black Mask's friend suddenly walks up behind her]
ROCK: You are expecting someone?
[she gives him a dirty look, as he turns to Black Mask]
ROCK: Can we go now?
BLACK MASK: I am waiting.
[he turns back to Tracy]
ROCK: I beg you not to whisper in my ear again, okay?
[she puts her hands on her hips, as he turns to Black Mask]
ROCK: Let's go.
[they walk out and leave Tracy to continue stewing, then cut to the two playing mahjong in the park]
BLACK MASK: Your turn.
BLACK MASK: [in voice over] He's a cop, nicknamed "The Rock." Dark and hard, true to his name. We get along very well. More importantly, he has never asked about my background. I feel safe with him. He is my only friend.
[he continues to wait for him to make a move]
BLACK MASK: Your turn now. You are pretty slow today. Anything on your mind? Cases you can't solve?
[he finally makes a move]
ROCK: Of course not!
BLACK MASK: No? I read in the newspaper that over thirty drug lords have been killed in the last five days. Aren't you on this case?
[he makes a move]
BLACK MASK: I'll take your castle!
ROCK: It's not important who's on the case ... As far as I'm concerned, these scumbags are better dead.
BLACK MASK: You should not fight violence by using violence ... Knight taken!
ROCK: Problem still unsolved? I'll have to take charge and eliminate them all for good.
BLACK MASK: Why go for complete destruction? Allow them a path to survival. I'll let the law decide their fate ... Queen taken. Your turn!
ROCK: The law is seldom as effective as we are. Find a good lawyer, and you can run free.
[he makes his final move and smiles]
BLACK MASK: Checkmate!
ROCK: Don't you say we should allow a path for survival?
BLACK MASK: Playing chess is different ... Let's have another game!



Black Mask was originally released as Hak Hap in 1996. It is a Hong Kong action film starring Jet Li, Lau Ching-Wan, Karen Mok and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang. It was directed by Daniel Lee and produced by Tsui Hark and his production company Film Workshop. In 1999, the film was English-dubbed and released in the U.S. by Artisan Entertainment.

The film is based an adapted version of the 1992 manhua Black Mask by Li Chi-Tak. The film was later followed by a 2002 sequel, Black Mask 2: City of Masks.

In homage to The Green Hornet, Black Mask wears a domino mask and chauffeur's cap in the same style as Kato from the series. The Black Mask is even compared to Kato in a news reporter scene.

Tsui Chik (Simon in the US version), tries to lead a quiet life as a librarian. However, he is really a former test subject for a highly secretive supersoldier project and the instructor of a special commando unit dubbed "701." The 701 squad is used for many government missions, but after one of the agents kills a team of policemen in an uncontrollable rage, the government decides to abort the project and eliminate all the subjects. Tsui Chik helped the surviving 701 agents flee the extermination attempt. Having escaped, Tsui Chik went separate ways from his team Later, he discovers that rest of the team were responsible for a violent crime spree that was beyond the capability of the local police. He sets out to stop them, donning a disguise and using the superhero alias of "Black Mask". Having lost the ability to feel pain due to the surgery performed on the super-soldiers by the military, Black Mask is highly invulnerable.

Alternate versions
The film is recognised for having multiple versions: Hong Kong (Cantonese), Taiwanese (Mandarin), English (export), UK (produced by BMG) and US (produced by Artisan).

English-language versions
An English version similar to the Hong Kong version was produced for export (featured on the Spanish DVD), but BMG and Artisan decided to make their own. Whilst only occasionally replacing music on the UK release, Artisan commissioned a brand-new English Hip Hop soundtrack - therefore, removing any reference to the original (despite using excerpts from it in their trailers). Despite a tendency of trimming non-action scenes, the Artisan and BMG versions not only contain all gory content, but also some non-violent scenes not found in any other version.




Lee, Daniel (Director). Black Mask. Hong Kong: Film Workshop Ltd., 1996.

Starring: Jet Li (The Black Mask, Michael/Simon/Tsui Chik, Librarian); Ching Wan Lau (Inspector Rock Shek); Karen Mok (Tracy Lee)

Original title: Hak Hap

Library as refuge ("peace at last") for a chemically-altered assassin who escapes into the real world. As he explains in the opening, "I live in Hong Kong with a new name and a job in a library, something as far removed from my violent past as I could find." "Simon" enjoys library work because his boss leaves him alone. "I like it here. It's quiet. Nobody ever bothers a librarian." (Obviously he doesn't work in the children's department.) He's a pacifist (one of his co-workers thinks he likes boys). But Simon benefits from all those books: "You'd be surprised what you learn on this job." As love-interest Tracy says (with her chalk-on-a-blackboard voice), "He's a little quiet and weird, but cute." Simon says, "It's always the quiet guys that get the most done. They don't waste talking." Of course his real identity is discovered and he's off to one wire-fu action sequence after another (yawn). One nice feature is that this film was made in a real library -- none of those phony sets with books shoved on shelves every which way. Of course that means when the library is shot to pieces with automatic weapons the audience only hears the action.



The film concerns a man named Tsui Chik (Michael in the American version), who tries to lead a quiet life as a librarian. However, he is really a former test subject for a highly secretive supersoldier project, and when he discovers that other test subjects have begun a violent crime spree that the police are helpless to stop, he sets out to stop them himself by donning a disguise and using the superhero alias of "Black Mask". Having lost the ability to feel pain due to experiments performed on him by the military, Black Mask is nigh invulnerable.



MICHAEL: Faced with an escalating war between hong kong's rival drug lords, the government launched project 701, the creation of a biologically enhanced commando force. A serum injected into the nerve centers of the brain GAVE THE 701s SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH And an almost complete immunity to pain. There were side effects to the experiment. Some of the commandos became mentally unstable. And when one killed 10 officers in a psychotic rage, the decision was made to abort the project AND TERMINATE ALL THE 701s. Yes, I was one of them. The government scientists had taken away our sense of pain, of fear, our feelings -- much of what it meant to be human. Now they wanted our lives. But our commander suspected what they were up to, and he enlisted me in a desperate plan TO GET THE 701s OUT BEFORE THE HAMMER FELL.
MICHAEL: It's time to start the show.
CAILYN: We'll skip the long goodbyes.
MICHAEL: I'll keep them busy while you and the others get out. I'm the only hope you've got. And don't worry, Cailyn. If I don't get out with the rest, at least I'll have died on my own terms.
CAILYN: Goodbye, Michael.
MICHAEL: Goodbye.
[Metal crashes]
MAN: Attention, you are in breach of security. Surrender and you will be escorted back to the research compound. Any action other than surrender will be dealt with by maximum force. Do the smart thing and give up.
MAN #2: It's no use, Michael.
[Machine gun fire]
MICHAEL: Today's my 30th birthday. That means it's more than a year since that night when I last saw Cailyn and the commander. I live in Hong Kong with a new name and a new identity and a job at a library, something as far removed from my violent past as I could find. Sometimes I do wonder IF ANY OF THE OTHER 701s GOT OUT ALIVE. But mostly I want to leave that life buried and enjoy the peace I've found at last.
TRACY: Oh, that's perfect ... just perfect! Jerk! You gutless little jerk! Couldn't even call me on the phone!
BOSS: Shh! Tracy, don't do that. People are staring.
TRACY: To get dumped by some guy via e-mail!
BOSS: Shh!
MICHAEL: That's Tracy. She works part-time at the library. She's surrounded by all the classics of romantic literature, and she still doesn't seem to have a clue.
BOSS: Nothing up my sleeve, right?
MICHAEL: The old guy's my boss ... a little odd, but basically, he's all right. He leaves me alone, and that's all I ask. I like it here. It's quiet. Nobody ever bothers a librarian. I almost feel like I'm getting the hang of living again.
BOSS: Tracy, don't you cry over him. The man was a prick, frankly. You really need someone who's going to be there for you, someone who knows you and cares about you as a person. Someone like--
TRACY: Hold on! You guys?
BOSS: No, no, no! I didn't mean us. Well, not exactly ... you could do worse.
LIBRARIAN: Golly! Well, if you wanted to ... play around, you know, I wouldn't say no.
TRACY: Forget about it, all right?
MICHAEL: Hey, what about Simon?
TRACY: Simon?
MICHAEL: [Chuckles] Hi.
BOSS: Look, someone simple and dependable would be a refreshing change of pace for you.
LIBRARIAN: That guy's incredibly hardworking. He does more than the rest of us put together.
LIBRARIAN #2: Imagine what it'd be like having a boyfriend like that. You'd never have to clean your apartment again.
TRACY: Yeah?
LIBRARIAN: And as far as money goes, there's no telling how much he's got stashed away. He never spends anything.
LIBRARIAN #3: Nothing to spend it on ... Well, before now.
LIBRARIAN: It's all just waiting there to be exploited.
TRACY: Exploited?
BOSS: Simon?
BOSS: Come.
MICHAEL: If it's about those reference books, I was just going to--
BOSS: Oh, this isn't about work. It's about Tracy.
MICHAEL: Is she upset about something?
BOSS: Ronnie ran over her dog last night.
BOSS: Yeah, an accident.
LIBRARIAN #2: Look, she needs money to pay the vet.
MICHAEL: I see. you're taking up a collection.
BOSS: Yeah, but we are all broke.
MICHAEL: So, what are you saying, exactly?
BOSS: Well, a dog's life's at stake ... 400 dollars, something like that.
MICHAEL: Mm-hmm.
BOSS: Oh, boy.
MICHAEL: What the heck, it's for a good cause.
LIBRARIAN #2: Yeah! that's right!
MICHAEL: If it means that tracy gets her dog back--
TRACY: Wait! Let's not go overboard!
MICHAEL: Oh, it's not doing me any good ... Well, back to work.
BOSS: He's either incredibly stupid or some kind of saint.
TRACY: God, that was incredibly sweet!
LIBRARIAN #2: Think what you'll get out of him once you're dating.
LIBRARIAN: This guy's a gravy train.
LIBRARIAN #3: You'll be in control for a change, tracy.
BOSS: Even if it doesn't work out, at least this time you'll be the one dumping him, hmm? So, what are you waiting for? Ask him out.
LIBRARIAN: It's not like you have to marry him or anything.
BOSS: It'll be good for you, and you'll be doing him a favor. He's probably never had a date in his life.
LIBRARIAN #2: Just think of it as therapy for both of you.
LIBRARIAN: All right, quit stalling!
BOSS: That's right ... no time like the present!
TRACY: Simon?
MICHAEL: How's it going?
TRACY: Say, I was wondering ... [chuckles nervously]
ROCK: Excuse me. You ready or what?
MICHAEL: Oh, yeah.
ROCK: Go breathe in someone else's ear, will you?
MICHAEL: Let's go, rock.
TRACY: [Blows]-ing.

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