- Directed by Oleg Stepchenko
- August 16, 2019 (China) / September 21, 2019 (Russia)
Peter the Great is apparently imprisoned in England and must journey to China to free the magic dragon that helps a region produce magical tea in order to get back his throne. You read that right.
I went into Iron Mask expecting a lot more Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger than I actually got. Their presence simply bookends the story. Jackie Chan is a mysterious prisoner in the Tower of London known only as Master and Schwarzenegger is the warden (not sure if that is the right term). You have two action legends together in one film and their presence is only to trick people into viewing this film. They are not involved in the main story.
We got plenty of action superstar Jason Flemyng though. He is known for action hits like… Fleming is not a bad actor but if you got Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger in your movie, you should use them. Flemyng plays cartographer Jonathan Green who journeys from Russia to China mapping the area along the way. Cheng Lan (Xingtong/Helen Yao) joins him. If I followed things right, she is actually the princess of the magic dragon tea area who is also the Master’s daughter.
To put it bluntly, Iron Mask movie is a load of nonsensical Russian crap. And I am being kind with that. A six-year-old hopped up on pixie sticks could write something more cohesive than this. I am unfamiliar with Russian fantasy films but if this is any indication of what they are like I want no part of them.
There are plenty of good fight scenes with a heavy dose of kung fu, but the story was convoluted and the tone uneven. So much coincidence happened in the story to make things go right. Random elements abruptly entered the plot with little explanation that made sense if one came at all.
I expected the titular iron mask to play a much greater role in the story than it actually did. Subverting expectations can be a good thing. Can be but not here. Peter the Great is locked in an iron mask and then eventually gets it taken off and it has no real effect on the story after that. A magical Dragon Seal features more prominently than anything.
There are so many different things going on in this movie. We have a group of triplets who guarded the princess who is actually a replacement who is actually an evil witch taking her place who is there because of the wizards who guarded the magic tea because some of them went bad and they are robbing China of gold. There is a random magical creature that follows Jason Fleming around and the real princess who he stumbled across.
This is a sequel to a movie called Viy. I think it was released theatrically in Russia and direct to DVD elsewhere. Regardless it was successful enough to justify a sequel with a better budget that gave it some western star power. Based on the quality of the final product this was obviously a paycheck film for the better known participants.
Iron Mask is presented as the first film but is obviously a sequel. Unfortunately we get no recap, nothing to set the stage. It is assumed we all just know what and why. Even sequels to mega popular films sprinkle tidbits about predecessors in the story. Not really here.
Along with Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger we also get Rutger Hauer as an ambassador in one of his last roles before his death and Charles Dance as Lord Dudley. Dance and Hauer are more underused than Schwarzenegger. Hauer just spouts a few random lines and is barely noticeable in his part. I honestly did not recognize him right away. Dance reads letters and his character basically provides exposition.
Peter the Great (Yuri Kolokolnikov) is retrieved from England by Jason Flemyng’s fiancé Miss Dudley (Anna Churina). Apparently he has been replaced by a doppelganger for…reasons. I am not sure why he has to go back to China. Yes, Jonathan is in China but if Peter goes and gets his throne back in Russia, he could do a lot more to help Jonathan. Johnny Boy is only in China because faux Peter has closed all the roads back to Europe. Why? Who knows. And how exactly did he get replaced on the Russian throne? There is no explanation of that at all in this movie.
Great costuming and a cool idea are not going to save something poorly executed and this is so bad it should count as a crime against humanity. Call the police because we have a crime against film here. I know not everything translates smoothly from culture to culture. Other than pure crap that is. And this is the purest of crap!
Iron Mask should have been much better than it was. Heck, at the minimum it should have been enjoyably bad. It was not. It had a decent budget and there were some good names attached but the good names were underused and the story was convoluted to the point of being confusing. Skip this one.