The Iron Mask
This film lets you know right from the off how it’s going to be – even the number of production companies’ logos before the credits is preposterous. It’s a Chinese/Russian-produced sequel to a 2014 feature that goes by names too various to mention and is indicative of filmmakers wanting to tap into the huge markets of both countries. It features a pretty stellar cast: Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Dance, Jason Flemyng and the late Rutger Hauer in a small role. The international juggernaut that is The Iron Mask seems to want to tick as many cinematic boxes as possible. It combines a swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean vibe with a dragon whose eyelashes make healing tea, a man in an iron mask in the Tower of London (Peter the Great, impervious to poison since childhood and recognisable from his seafaring alone), Schwarzenegger as an evil jailer named James Hook, Jackie Chan psychically linked with said dragon, and some steampunk Chinese ninja cyborgs. So far, so bonkers.
It is big-budget ridiculousness. The plot involves witches, other supernatural beings, dastardly claims to power by those undeserving, mild peril and plenty of martial arts – as you might expect. In a scene set in a debauched Russia without its leader, a man is divested of his long beard via an axe – one for the surrealists out there.
However, there is a big problem with the dubbing. There is a reason foreign-language art-house movies use subtitles; nothing ruins all gravitas as completely as mismanaged dubbing. If this is to deliberately bring back the feel of 1970s’ martial arts films, then bravo, they have succeeded.
There are some spectacular shots of scenery and the visuals on the dragon are undeniably cool, but the intonation in the voices is so off-kilter that it creates unintentional hilarity. At least two of the evil laughs are meme-worthy. And while it is unlikely to unseat The Room as the best worst film ever, The Iron Mask creates some memorable moments. This is enjoyable up to a point, but it lags after a few hours. It might be that the film is too ostentatious for a Western audience and something is lost in translation.
The Popsinator (dubbed with utmost affection) is always an enjoyable watch, like an alpha lion now in his dotage just having fun, but one who can still crack some skulls together if he wants to. Incidentally, how is his accent still as strong now as it was when he first started making English-speaking films? You have to admire that strength of character.
Whether intentional or not, The Iron Mask is highly ludicrous. Less of an “Iron Mask” and more of a “Tinpot Farce”. Chan and Schwarzenegger were both involved in the production and one would assume they are canny operators, so this hallucinatory, histrionic car crash may be a ploy to gain publicity. Whether that is enough to get you to part with your money: you decide.
Tommy Wiseau watch out: The Iron Mask’s got big bucks and they’re coming for your crown.
Iron Mask is released nationwide on 20th April 2020.
Watch the trailer for Iron Mask here: