Oleg Stepchenko (director)
10 April 2020 (released)
08 April 2020
Iron Mask is an odd film that brings together two of the greatest action stars that have ever crossed the silver screen: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan. This is an ‘event’ that probably should have happened a few years back (Around the World in 80 Days doesn’t count). As such and with without stating the obvious they are little more than cameos, or possibly because on reading the script they decided that less is better.
The plot has two main strands. A dragon caused the earth to be fertile and for tea plants to grow and be exported around the world. The dragon then created white wizards to look after the dragon and a magic seal which was passed to the Master (Jackie Chan) and his daughter Chen Lang (Xingtong Yao). This caused some jealousy with the wizards who turned on each other creating black wizards controlled by a witch who wanted the seal.
The seal was lost during the fighting and the Master sent away to the Tower of London guarded by James Hook (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from where he is trying to escape. The dragon meanwhile has dozed off and the land is suffering. The other strand is that of cartographer Jonathan Green (Jason Flemying) who is drawing up maps of the region where the action will take place, and he happens to chance upon the witch and the ensuing battles over the seal.
Iron Mask is actually a sequel to the 2014 film Forbidden Kingdom though it’s debatable if it is necessary to see that one as Iron Mask is a pretty self-contained story. Regardless it’s a long mess and a bit of a narrative disaster with ideas flying about all over the place though director Oleg Stepchenko does deliver some ok set pieces. The Arnie/Jackie fight at the beginning is good if a little too long, and the fight between the witch and the princess is excellent though the cute creature isn’t. Unfortunately the final epic battle is risible.
The CGI at times is all over the place which keeps it in rhythm with the acting and the dubbing. The latter is a throwback to the spaghetti westerns and the early martial arts films that were dubbed over several times as actors spoke in a number of languages and were repeatedly overdubbed causing accurate lips-sync to be almost impossible. Despite what some may say, it wasn’t that funny then and isn’t now. It just spoils the film and does a disservice to the actors.
The clear selling point of this film is Chan and Schwarzenegger working together (there are a couple of scene stealers from the late Rutger Hauer and Charles Dance), and by and large they are on the money.
Almost everyone else though should be more wary as there isn’t much credit coming out the clutter. The portents weren’t good when it took around five minutes for all the companies involved in the production to be credited at the start. That more than likely led to trade-offs and it is palpably clear throughout the film that it was not a coherent project, and the result is not at all enjoyable.
The Iron Mask is available on digital from 10 April 2020.