Blu-ray Review: Iron Mask

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Oleg Stepchenko | CAST: Jackie Chan, Jason Flemyng, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Xingtong Yao, Anna Churina
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 24, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $14.96
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: PG-13 | 121 min. | Action adventure fantasy | 1.89:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  | Video  | Overall  1/2

It wasn’t all that long ago when a movie featuring either Arnold Schwarzenegger (Aftermath), or Jackie Chan (The Knight of Shadows) would warrant genuine enthusiasm from movie fans.

Now, a title boasting both actors is held for release for months by its distributor and gets quietly placed on VOD streaming services with little fanfare.

That appears to be the case with Iron Mask (aka Viy 2: Journey to China), a 2018 medieval fantasy (and a lot of other things), showcasing the two action superstars along with Rutger Hauer (The Sisters Brothers) and Charles Dance (TV’s Game of Thrones) in smaller roles.

While the title would make you think it has something to do with classic adventure oft-filmed Alexandre Dumas story The Man in the Iron Mask, the movie has nothing to do with it. But it does offer an avalanche of genres and stuff snagged from other films.

Set in the 18th century, the screwy, often incomprehensible narrative centers on Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng, Gemma Bovery), a British cartographer on a quest to map hidden regions of Russia and China. During the trip, Green encounters a Japanese princess and an evil witch seeking to dethrone her by way of black magic.

And that’s just one strand of the convoluted story. Schwarzenegger, wearing tricorn and sporting a mustache that would baffle Salvador Dali, is on limited hand as evil pirate James Hook (?!), while Jackie Chan portrays a martial-arts wizard with a close connection to a horrifying dragon.

Iron Mask is actually a sequel to 2014’s Russian smash Forbidden Kingdom (aka Vij), which offered Flemyng playing the same character. The time out, the filmmakers appear to spruce the template up with ideas and characters from other popular enterprises (Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Trouble in Little China, to name only two) throw them into a mixer and stir with international stars, yielding a movie that appeals to a huge demographic.

Or a very small demographic.

Jackie and Arnold (also one of the producers) show little oomph in their box-office beefing roles. But the worst problem with Iron Mask is its serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder—the film is exhausting from the get-go, ricocheting from genre to genre and from one unimpressive CGI special effect to the next. And it’s all filtered through a distinctive steam-punk look.

The product of a Russian/Ukraine company, with a myriad of producers and production companies on board, Iron Mask may provide perfectly fine entertainment for teens and younger who dig action-packed video games and/or recognize the names of its two marquee performers.

For others, a revisit to a favorite Jackie Chan or Arnold Schwarzenegger film may be in order.

Buy or Rent Iron Mask

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.