Blu-ray Review: Iron Mask - aka Viy 2: Journey to China


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Debuting on home video in the U.S. is the 2019 Chinese/Russian production Iron Mask. For it's international theatrical release, it was called Viy 2: Journey to China, a sequel to the original Viy (which no one in the U.S. would've heard of, hence the rebranding). Iron Mask is, I guess, a live-action fantasy, but this is the perhaps the most CG-looking live-action film ever released. The entire movie looks like one long video game cut scene.

But here's the bait to lure unsuspecting viewers: in very supporting roles, you'll find Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan. The absolute pinnacle of Iron Mask's entertainment value (and this isn't saying much) is Arnold's ridiculous appearance (just look at the Blu-ray cover). He's not in it much, nor is Chan, but also along for the ride are Charles Dance, and (in what the press release calls one of his final performances) Rutger Hauer. So if you're a fan of any of those actors, I guess you might want to check out Iron Mask.

But the truth is, the two-hour running time washed over me while I wished I was someplace else, doing something—anything—else. The reported $48 million budget is apparent with all the gaudy, spectacularly overused CG sets, effects, and (it would seem, based on their animatronic appearance) actors. But damned if I can begin to summarize what was actually transpiring on screen. Yes, it's an awfully lazy cop out to "reviewing" a movie, but I have to just leave it to the press materials to provide a general recap:

"In order to save his homeland from certain doom, a kung fu master (Chan) must escape from the maniacal James Hook (Schwarzenegger) in order to send his daughter a secret talisman that will allow her to control a massive and mythical dragon. This larger-than-life, globe-trotting tale ranges from the impenetrable Tower of London to the fabled Silk Road and China’s Great Wall."

Got it? Good. Seems simple enough. But this overbearing cinematic atrocity is, however, a punishing viewing experience. Again, the very best way I can even try to describe it would be to imagine a video game with top-notch graphics but no playable characters. The entire movie (all aspects of it) looks 100% artificial, with the "actors" all appearing digitally touched up and moving around in mechanical, weightless fashion. The dialogue, even spoken by English-speaking actors, is badly dubbed and essentially out-of-sync.

Worst of all, director/co-writer Oleg Stepchenko exhibits zero storytelling capabilities. If you're an Arnold junkie, be sure you've watched all his recent obscurities like Maggie, Aftermath, and Killing Gunther at least TWICE before venturing into Iron Mask territory. Yes, it's that bad. Not "so bad it's good," just plain, old bad.

And Lionsgate's Blu-ray contains zero bonus features, so we are left with no clue as to why respected screen legends like Schwarzenegger or Chan would willingly volunteer to appear in such nonsense.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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