Running Time: 90 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR
Format: Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin
Subtitles: Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English, Spanish, Japanese, Bahasa-Malaysia
Region: All
MSRP: $29.95

Own It!
Black Cat II (1992) (Import)

In the first movie, Erica (Jade Leung) was recruited (rather against her will) by the CIA as an assassin. A microchip code-named Black Cat was implanted in her brain, to "unlock her potential". Past the microchip, Black Cat was a passable, but still lesser, remake of Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita.

Black Cat II, on the other hand, starts with the microchip being upgraded, and Erica's troublesome memories being erased; the result is a coldly-reasoning killing machine capable of incredible physical feats. In other words, there is lot more wire work and kung fu ass-kicking in the sequel, rendering it a more identifiably Hong Kong-ish production - the sort of over-the-top film that attracted many of us to Asian cinema in the first place.

Erica is teamed with CIA Agent Robin (the film debut of Mortal Kombat's Robin Shou) to take on a Russian terrorist organization determined to assassinate then-President Yeltsin. The terrorists are taking some manner of radioactive drug that makes them the equal of Leung's cyber-assassin, but also allows the enhanced Erica to track them, due to their unique radiation signature. To say that mayhem ensues would be to belabor the obvious.

Though the picture performed badly at the box office, there is no denying its production values, with positively gorgeous location shooting and the largest non-Asian cast I've yet seen in a HK movie. It is especially fun hearing the American crowds cheer Yeltsin's motorcade in Chinese! Something is either getting shot, blown up, or getting the crap kicked out of it every five minutes or so. Let's face it: Van Damme only wishes he could make a movie this cool.

The print shows a bit of wear, but not much, and the transfer is sharp and clear. Though both the Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks are touted as being in Dolby 5.1, the Cantonese track has a much livelier sound tapestry - the Mandarin track's sound effects seem muffled and squashed.

The subtitles have been redone for this pressing; the occasional misspelling or tense problem crops up, but the translation is very good. I am going to miss one of my favorite translation errors, however : "Are you insulating we cannot protect the President?" "I'm not insulating anything." Now corrected and gone for all time.

The menu system is nicely done, and provides nine jumping-in places for the disc's 10 chapters, marked by film clips playing in nine windows. There are scant bios for writer/director Stephen Shin and star Jade Leung, and a one-paragraph plot synopsis. There are also theatrical trailers for this film, the first Black Cat, Jackie Chan: My Stunts and A Moment of Romance, not to mention a promo piece for Media Asia DVD, which watches like a Greatest Hits of HK Cinema reel.

When I was learning to juggle, I was taught that the best way to approach dropping a ball was smiling broadly and saying, "That's nice!" I bring this up only to illustrate the best way to approach watching the trailers section of a Media Asia DVD: smile broadly and say, "I'd like to see the Media Asia logo again, please!" repeatedly. Try to sound as much like Babe the Pig as possible. It helps. It really does.

Dr. Freex, 3/25/00