Bullet Points: Mask of Death
Back by popular demand, I’m reviewing another of Lorenzo Lamas’ 90’s action flicks. This go around I take a look at Mask of Death.
I think Lorenzo’s work on the TV series Renegade overshadowed a lot of the quality direct to video action movies he was a part of in the 90’s. I know I had never heard of Mask of Death until it popped up on Netflix.
- The Background: Lorenzo Lamas plays a dual role in this one, first as the American muscle for the Russian mafia Mason and as cop and husband McKenna. These two guys could not be further apart on the human being spectrum as far as personality and character goes. But considering they are both played by the same actor, there are some physical similarities. So here’s the deal… Mason is about to buy a valuable microchip from gangster Frank Dalilo (Conrad Dunn, who you may remember from Death Warrant and Direct Action). The deal is set to take place on Dalilo’s boat, but when Mason finds a listening device (planted by the feds) on said boat, things go south in a hurry. Now there’s a speed boat chase involving our criminals Mason and Dalilo and the FBI. As bad luck would have it, our hero McKenna, his wife Rachel and his partner Cassandra (Rae Dawn Chong) are nearby about to enjoy some down time in the great outdoors. Soon they find themselves caught up in this mess… the result, Rachel dies. Mason dies. Dalilo escapes with the microchip and our hero McKenna gets shot in the face.
- The Premise: Trust me when I say you’ll never be so happy that an action hero got shot in the face. Don’t believe me? Well the picture above is a picture of McKenna. So the agent in charge of Operation Get Back The Microchip, Agent Jeffries (played by the charismatic Billy Dee Williams) has a an epiphany… if the criminals aren’t aware that Mason died and McKenna, who does share some of the physical characteristics of Mason and he needs plastic surgery anyway after getting shot in the face, why not have the doctors make McKenna look like Mason and report McKenna as dead and Mason as alive and in custody. So McKenna now looks like they guy who tried to kill him and the man at least partially responsible for the death of his wife. Jeffries and his team help McKenna become Mason, they feed him facts and give him background information on the man he has to become. They even stage his escape from the hospital so word gets out on the streets that Mason is alive and has fled the authorities. McKenna, in his new Mason persona, now has to track down Dalilo so they can resume their business and the microchip can be out of the evil hands of Dalilo.
- Taking the High Road: To make sure the world knows Mason is back and badder than ever, McKenna has to ruffle some feathers and rough some people up. He needs Dalilo to know he’s back in town and ready to do business. Unfortunately one of Mason’s women catch wind of “Mason’s” whereabouts and visits him in the cheap motel he is staying at and this nearly derails the operation early. She makes it clear almost immediately that she’s really missed Mason and wants to spend some special time with him. I’ll hand it to McKenna, coming off the loss of his wife it might have been tough to be with another woman in that sense so soon, but he is a dedicated undercover cop and he goes with the flow. After they do the deed the floozy does question who Mason really is because she knows after their intimate moments that he was not Mason. I applaud the film for taking the high road and not resorting to “I don’t remember you being that big and/or small” line. Stay classy Mask of Death!
- Supporting Cast: One of the really strong points about Mask of Death is the quality actors that are featured… Billy Dee Williams is often a scene stealer as Agent Jeffries. Rae Dawn Chong does a great job as a cop looking for the man who “killed” her partner and unknowingly making life more difficult for the partner she thinks is dead as he tries to complete his undercover mission… Conrad Dunn is also very adept at playing the bad guy role. Although I must admit I was a little disappointed that they wasted the opportunity to say the “Lighten up Francis” line since Dunn’s character’s name is Frank. The person who said it would have likely been shot for saying it.
If you have the opportunity to watch Mask of Death, don’t waste it. As long as you can accept the premise, you’ll be ok and find yourself really enjoying this movie. You’ve got a speed boat chase, you’ve got some shoot outs, you’ve got some fisticuffs and you’ve got a talented cast to pull it all off.