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Film / Shadow Mask

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The title up there says "Black Mask 3". It's NOT.

Shadow Mask is a 2001 Hong Kong martial arts/sci-fi/modern-day wuxia/romance movie starring Louis Fan and Cheng Pei-Pei. It's really obvious from its title, that this film is based entirely on the earlier Jet Li flick Black Mask, featuring a Suspiciously Similar Substitute protagonist which is an Expy of Black Mask except for the name, as well as having similar themes and storylines. In fact, this movie started off as a Black Mask prequel before being changed halfway into an independent film.

The Legendary hero known as Shadow Mask is assumed to have retired, having left his days of superheroing behind after defeating his arch-enemy, the Red Goddess, and imprisoning her years ago. But when Red Goddess' minions broke her out from prison, Shadow Mask will have to return to action once more, while balancing his responsibilities as a tutor and mentor to his adopted son and student, Fu Tien-ming (Louis Fan).


Shadow Mask provides the following tropes:

  • Afraid of Needles: Implied for Tien-ming. After returning home to Uncle Iron after his mission, Uncle Iron gives Tien-ming all kinds of pills and medication, telling him its necessary for Tien-ming to consume to make himself stronger. Tien-ming tries protesting by saying he already took these pills multiple times, at which point Uncle Iron queries that maybe Tien-ming would prefer the needle instead. Cue Tien-ming shoving pills down his own throat.
  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: One of the Mook Lieutenant serving Red Goddess is a monk in flowing yellow robes which puts up quite a fight, and is the first enemy who actually gives Tien-ming a challenge. He still gets killed by Tien-ming all the same.
  • Badass Cape: Most of the named characters, including Tien-ming, Red Goddess, Blood Moon, and even Uncle Iron who is revealed to be the original Shadow Mask.
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  • Badass Teacher: Uncle Iron, who is also the adoptive father of Shadow Mask and trainer to make his protégé stronger than before. He even gets to fight Red Goddess at the end of the second act, and is in fact the previous Shadow Mask who’s responsible for inflicting the near-fatal injury that defeats Red Goddess and have her put in prison in the first place.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: Fan-ming often considers Uncle Iron, despite being his adoptive father, to be a nuisance and an overly-harsh trainer who continuously demands him to be training when he can be slacking off. But after Uncle Iron dies in the hands of Red Wood, Fan-ming came to realize how important his mentor and father figure really is for him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Red Goddess is dead, and her league of ruthless assassins have disbanded. But Uncle Iron and Jacky, both whom are the people closest to Tien-ming, are dead too, and even though Sandy is rescued, her mind is permanently damaged from Red Goddess’ mind control reducing her to having the mental capacity of a three-year-old child. Nevertheless, Tien-ming, as Shadow Mask, is dedicated to continue fighting evil while taking care of his girlfriend.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Jacky, after having his mind entirely drained by Red Goddess, reduced to a mindless zombie and becoming her pawn, even to the point of threatening Sandy’s life and fighting Tien-ming.
  • Building Swing: Tien-ming can do this thanks to his wrist-mounted grappling hook launcher. Especially in the Action Prologue where he evades gunshots from mooks by climbing onto tall shipping containers in the docks shootout.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In the final one-on-one battle against Red Goddess, Tien-ming is getting beaten down by his opponent whose power is leagues ahead of him. But he came prepared with concealed mini-blades hidden in his clothing, which he used to maim Red Goddess from up close when she tries to finish him off, eventually allowing him to kill her instead.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Tien-ming’s punishment for slacking while training? Being forced to play video games for the rest of the day… while standing on his hands and looking at the upside-down screen. He freaks out and begs to be excused after a while.
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite what the DVD cover (pictured above) claims, this is NOT a sequel to Black Mask starring Jet Li. The movie isn’t even set in the same universe!
  • Dark Action Girl: Blood Eagle, the most trusted acolyte of Red Goddess, and also The Dragon of the film.
  • Deadly Doctor: Red Wood infiltrates the hospital room of the wounded Uncle Iron while disguised as a doctor, and cut Uncle Iron’s throat in his sleep. He forgot to remove his ring though, causing the passing Tien-ming to realize the doctor is an imposter.
  • Devour the Dragon: Blood Eagle dies in the hands of her own mentor and Bad Boss, Red Goddess.
  • Domino Mask: Part of Tien-ming’s outfit as Shadow Mask. Its all in the name.
  • Expy: Louis Fan’s Shadow Mask is clearly based on Jet Li’s Black Mask, from the movie of the same name, right down to his outfit, fighting styles, and being a dorky nerd when assuming civilian mode. To differentiate both characters however, Shadow Mask/Tien-ming is portrayed to be more immature and close to being a Manchild, as well as being more socially awkward and having an equally immature best friend to boot.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: Red Wood is set up to being the other major threat against Shadow Mask / Tien-ming throughout the movie, besides Red Goddess, and gets to fight Tien-ming one-on-one before the climax of the film. Tien-ming kills him in a Curb-Stomp Battle by kicking him against a wall, breaking Red Wood’s neck in the process. It helps that Red Wood just killed Uncle Iron earlier on, which Tien-ming had just found out.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Shadow Mask’s superhero outfit is a jet-black body-fitting leather shirt and pants. And leather gloves.
  • In the Hood: Red Goddess in her first few scenes have her hood obscuring her face, accompanied by her being Face Framed in Shadow to complete her Obviously Evil appearance.
  • Kick the Dog: Red Goddess, besides turning Jacky into a mindless henchman against his will and forcing him to commit crimes on her behalf, also orders him to give her a back massage when not using him for evil purposes.
  • Like a Son to Me: Uncle Iron considers Tien-ming, his protégé, to be like his own son. Tien-ming doesn’t appreciate Uncle Iron enough until Uncle Iron dies.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Played with, Sandy is Tien-ming’s girlfriend and genuinely loves him, but she also has a crush on Shadow Mask for saving her life, unaware that both Shadow Mask and Tien-ming are in fact the same person. By the end of the movie, her mind has been destroyed and she is reduced to having the mentality of a child, and even until then she is still oblivious to Tien-Ming’s/Shadow Mask’s true identity.
  • Manchild: Tien-ming, the hilariously immature protagonist, who is shown to enjoy playing video games while he’s supposed to be training, is awkward around girls who had feelings for him, likes to crack jokes and play pranks, and tends to talk like someone half his age.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Blood Eagle, who uses her charms to manipulate Jacky into turning against Tien-ming, and then tricking him to end up being brainwashed completely by Red Goddess.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Uncle Iron dies in the hands of Red Wood before he can see Tien-ming, his protégé, become the next Shadow Mask, prompting Tien-ming to avenge him in the finale.
  • Mind Control: Red Goddess’ main ability, which she can perform on the weak-willed. Like Jacky.
  • Parental Substitute: Uncle Iron to Tien-ming, raising the child to become the next Shadow Mask.
  • Pressure Point: During their date, Tien-ming uses this to knock out Sandy, non-fatally, rendering her out cold, because he realized several of Red Goddess’ minions have followed him and is trying to kill him. He defeats and kills all the baddies, before driving all the way back with Sandy slumped unconscious in the passenger seat, and waking Sandy up claiming that she fell asleep from drinking too much.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Subverted in the scene where Red Wood tries to betray Red Goddess by whipping out his pistol behind her. When he tries to pull the trigger, he realized his fingers are frozen, and Red Goddess is mentally controlling him to turn the gun around into his own throat instead. But in the last second, she made him drop the pistol after swearing his allegiance to her.
  • Red Baron: The Big Bad is known as Red Goddess. While the Big Good is called Shadow Mask. Both names are pretty intimidating and have an air of authority on them.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Tien-ming beats the snot out of Red Wood, completely destroying him in battle after learning Red Wood has killed Uncle Iron under Red Goddess’ orders, and then marches straight to take on Red Goddess and her minions.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Jacky is written out of the movie at the end of the second act, right when the movie is starting to become serious, when he gets brainwashed by Red Goddess into becoming her henchman. And he stays that way until his death.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Used in the scene where Jacky appears to the audience for the first time, when Tien-ming tries calling Jacky on his phone while waiting for his friend to arrive.
    Tien-ming (on phone): "I’ve been waiting for you for hours, where are you?"
    Jacky (also on phone): "I can tell you right now, but then it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I do so..."
    Tien-ming (still on phone): "Then come out!"
    (Cue Jacky stepping out from a set of curtains behind Tien-ming with a phone in his hand)
  • Soulless Shell: The fate of anyone whose minds are entirely wiped by Red Goddess. Like Jacky or – at the end of the movie- Sandy
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The prison where Red Goddess is kept early on at the start of the movie, where her minions kill their way past the guards to break her out.
  • Telepathy: Red Goddess’ main ability, which she can use to probe the minds of her enemies and prisoners, and for the weak-minded, even brainwash them into becoming her minions. (Exhibit A: Jacky)
  • The Vamp: Blood Eagle, who first appears before Jacky wearing a skimpy leather sports bra to seduce him, flirts with him to mislead him into thinking she had feelings for him, and goads him into having sex with her before sending him to be mindwiped by Red Goddess.
  • Workout Fanservice: Tien-ming working out in a gym, with a Walking Shirtless Scene focusing on his muscular body.
  • Wuxia: The movie feels a lot like a wuxia in modern times, with its excessive Wire Fu, stories about revenge and honour, mentor-apprentice relationships and codes about honour and loyalty.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Red Goddess decides that Blood Eagle have failed her far too many times, and executes her with a Neck Snap. With ONE hand.