review by Bobby Blakey
In 2014 there was a Russian film called Forbidden Empire starring Jason Flemyng that took a while before it got any kind of release in the US, but was a high grossing film in Russia. Thanks to its success there it has spawned a sequel that has been popping up via trailers for some time now with Jason Flemyng reprising his role from the first film and the addition of action icons Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as Rutger Hauer in one of his final roles. Now the film titled Iron Mask is getting an official US release from Lionsgate, but does it offer up something worth the adventure or will it be one that should have stayed locked up?
In order to save his homeland from certain doom, a kung fu master must escape from the maniacal James Hook in order to send his daughter a secret talisman that will allow her to control a massive and mythical dragon. I have been hearing about this film for quite some time now and been eager to check it out. I also was full aware that it was very likely that both Chan and Schwarzenegger were going to be a very small part of the film despite the way it is being sold to US audiences. While this is in fact the case I was actually pretty surprised how much they got to be involved throughout. They are fairly prominent in the first of the film and return for more at the end. This already gave me more than I expected and yes it is a lot of fun to watch.
Past that I was pretty surprised how much of a fun film this was on its own. They showcase a montage back history harking back to the original film that is done in a way that you don’t need to see it to enjoy this one. Even Flemyng who is the returning star here who gets a bit more to do than Chan and Schwarzenegger isn’t the full on lead. This helps the film to stand alone as something separate and to my surprised felt more like a full on marital arts fantasy epic than I had expected. It’s a bit cheesy at times in the overall tone, but as a fantasy adventure martial arts film I enjoyed it.
The effects weren’t always great, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think the stuff with the dragon was cool and vibrant. Some of it comes off more like a video game, but in the fantasy world it’s easier to accept that more so than in the real world scenario. Not all the action is perfect, but there is plenty to keep you entertained complete with a fight between Chan and Schwarzenegger. It’s not the action that fans have been wanting that we would have gotten back in their prime, but the fact that it exists is enough to make me smile.
This is a straight up fantasy adventure that is all over the place at times, but just enjoy it for what it is and you might have a good time like I did. Witness two action icons collide and decide for yourself and check out Iron Mask available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.