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Iron Mask, The  (DVD)


Stars: Jason Flemyng, Xingtong Yao, Jackie Chan, Anna Churina, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christopher Fairbank, Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer, Kyle Paul, Kseniya Petrukhina, Kemisara Paladesh, Paul Allica

Director: Oleg Stepchenko

An insane mixture of the visually amazing with ludicrous writing, action and dialogue direction, this is like a Chinese pantomime on a billion dollar budget. Had it been directed by anyone with an idea of conviction and style, this could have been a wonder to behold.

The title should probably be The Captive Dragon, since the titular mask only appears in the first half of the story.

Its action centres on a strangely cast Flemyng as 18th century explorer and cartographer Jonathan Green, whom we meet far from his wife (Churina), father-in-law (Dance) and young son, journeying through a Russia whose forests are full of more fantastic beasts than even Newt Scamander ever envisaged.

He's accompanied by his Chinese assistant (Yao) - a boy who's obviously a girl to everyone but Green - who has a fantastic 'familiar' of her own, who whizzes about in the air and looks like Flook (remember him?).

Back in London, a man in the eponymous mask, and an elderly Chinaman (Chan), who has a mental rapport with the should-be-eponymous dragon, are held prisoner by head yeoman Schwarzenegger in a career-worst performance.

Meanwhile, over in China, Green is himself made prisoner, though hotly pursued by his wife disguised as an eye-patched pirate, and a now-unmasked Peter the Great of Russia, who's swiftly drugged by an evil 'fake' empress, while the real ruler proves to be - no! - Green's 'boy' assistant.

The action is breathless and frequent, especially when an army of manned red umbrellas zooms through the skies, with kudos going to art direction, production design and special effects alike.

Much of the dialogue seems (badly) dubbed, but is in any case spoken unconvincingly in a variety of accents, with the villains all cackling maniacally.

Flemyng is an extraordinary weak hero whose idea of a quip in a crisis is 'You chaps know where the bathroom is?'

Bad, bewildering and totally bonkers it all is, but perhaps this is the kind of stuff some of us need in these grim times. Available at Amazon, BT, Google Play, Sky Store and others.

David Quinlan

USA/Russia/China/Czech Republic 2019. UK Distributor: Signature. Colorframe by Astra.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Apr 2020