Film Review: Iron Mask

The Iron Mask

The Iron Mask - Credit: Archant

Oddball globetrotting romp starring Charles Dance, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan has bad dubbing an illogical plot and questionable acting

The Iron Mask

The Iron Mask - Credit: Archant

This Russian Chinese co-production is full of wonders: wonder why Schwarzenegger, Chan, Hauer and Dance are hardly in it? Wonder why it is called Iron Mask when the man in it is peripheral to the plot? Wonder who the hell they think wants to see it?

This 18th century historical romp takes viewers all the way back to the 1970s when it was quite normal for our entertainment to be dubbed projects from the east.

The local sale pitch is the so-bad-it’s-brilliant scam – come laugh at the atrocious dubbing and bad acting.*

But the venture is just too damn odd for that to work. It’s an action film without a hero, a star-studded cast full of nobodies, a globe-trotting adventure that goes nowhere. If you don’t know what it’s supposed to be, it’s hard to laugh at its failings.

If there is a lead character it is adventurous cartographer Jonathan Green, (Flemyng.) Now Indiana Jones was an archaeologist, so a hero mapmaker could work, but Green’s role in the narrative is to blunder around getting into trouble like a damsel in distress as he heads from Moscow to China.

Meanwhile, in London, conventional hero figure Chan is locked up in the Tower alongside Christopher Fairbanks and The Total Nobody in an Iron Mask.

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Perhaps Russian state policy of spreading misinformation and undermining our perception of reality is so entrenched that they set a troll farm loose on the script to fatally undermine its credibility.

Turns out it was a small world back in the 18th century, with people turning up unexpectedly on the other side of the globe. Few films reflect the state of the world in the 21st century as accurately as this tale from the 18th: leaderless, illogical and filled with inexplicable conflicts.

It’s a terrible film but you can’t deny it has a certain berserk glee.

It ends with Jackie Chan delivering a cryptic homily on the greater glory of China to Arnie, a propaganda spiel which appears to go right over the grinning head of the former Republican Governor of California.

* Exceptional effort here by Arnie. Though he is just about the only member of the cast who looks as though the words are coming out of his mouth when speaking, his performance is as bad as anybody else’s.

2/5 stars.

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