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Oleg Stepchenko
Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Flemyng
Writing Credits:
Dmitry Paltsev, Aleksey Petrukhin, Oleg Stepchenko

Cartographer Jonathan Green maps the Russian Far East, where he proceeds to China and confronts the Dragon Master.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.89:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/24/2020

• Trailer & Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Iron Mask [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 14, 2020)

On the back cover of 2019’s Iron Mask, the movie promises “action’s greatest stars!” Sure – if we travel in time back to 1999.

Nowadays, however, the combo of Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t pack quite the same punch. Still, they boast enough star power to intrigue the potential viewer – or at least this potential viewer.

Set in the early 18th century, British cartographer Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) receives an order from Russian Czar Peter the Great (Yuri Kolokolnikov) to map the eastern expanse of that nation. As it happens, the leader finds himself stuck in a London prison, and Green does what he can to push for the monarch’s release.

In the meantime, Green takes new assistant Cheng Lan (Helen Yao) on the mission to create a new map. This leads to various adventures along the way.

Though you’ll find no reference to it on the Blu-ray’s packaging, Mask acts as a sequel to 2014’s Forbidden Empire - aka Viy or other titles, dependent on your location. I never heard of Empire until I did research for this review, but apparently it sold a lot of tickets in Russia, and that success prompted this sequel.

In a potentially helpful move, Mask comes with a recap of the first movie’s events. Don’t expect this to matter much in the greater scheme of things, however, because Mask gives us such a borderline incoherent tale that all the backstory in the world won’t help.

And boy, do we get a lot of backstory! The movie launches with exposition that tells of wizards and a dragon whose eyelashes make tea.

Alrighty then! As soon as we learn this “history”, Mask abandons those conceits, not to revisit them for quite some time.

Instead, Mask favors a mix of plot concepts, all of which connect in a loose manner but never in a genuinely meaningful way. The “story” feels like a conglomeration of narrative ideas melded in a blender.

Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work. Mask simply makes no damned sense a whole lot of the time, and whatever potential positives it maintains can’t overcome its incoherence.

By “potential positives” I mean the flick’s action scenes, as one might expect those to offer material lively enough to compensate for the story flaws. Unfortunately, the martial arts sequences feel stale and never become interesting enough to make us forget what a mess the rest of the movie is.

I’ve not seen all that many martial arts movies, but even I get a “been there, done that” impression from the action on display here. What looked novel 20 years ago now seems old hat, and Mask finds no new ways to spin these battles.

At 65, Chan’s days as a vibrant action star seem firmly in the past. While he moves well for a man his age, he clearly lacks the abilities he once possessed, and Mask resorts to cutaways and doubles to hide his decline.

It doesn’t work, and his matchup with 72-year-old Schwarzenegger feels like a broken hip waiting to happen. Both still enjoy enough residual charm that their fight – as clunky as it tends to seem due to all those stunt doubles and camera tricks – becomes the closest thing to a highlight I can find here.

That’s thin gruel, though. Nearly incoherent, dull and pointless, Mask flops in almost all possible ways.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Iron Mask appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.89:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, this became a positive presentation.

The only notable softness came from some establishing shots that used computer graphics, and those almost certainly stemmed from the poor work on display. Mask came with exceedingly iffy CG, and those elements tended to seem oddly fuzzy.

Otherwise, however, Mask brought nice delineation. This meant the movie consistently appeared accurate and well-defined outside of those CG anomalies.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.

Colors leaned pretty heavily toward blues, greens and teal, with a fair amount of amber and orange as well. The hues felt well-depicted and full given those choices.

Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows came across as smooth and concise. Except for some awkward computer work, this became an appealing image.

Note that the filmmakers clearly intended Mask for 3D exhibition. Expect a lot of “stuff that pops out of the screen” imagery, all of which looked silly in this 2D rendition.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it offered a busy affair, though more didn’t necessarily equal better. While the mix used the channels in an active manner, the soundscape could feel overcooked and without great specificity.

Not that the track flopped, as it added reasonable action to the proceedings. Still, it didn’t bring the localization and integration I’d like, so we got a lot of sonic information thrown at us without the anticipated involvement.

Audio quality seemed acceptable, though the movie came with some of the worst dubbing I’ve heard. Not only did this mean lines that sounded less than organic, but also we got dialogue that didn’t match lip movements at times.

These issues didn’t crop up frequently, but they created distractions when it occurred. This seemed to be an issue where the recordists simply failed to achieve successful ADR.

It also seemed clear that some actors got revoiced entirely. Not only did those moments suffer from the iffy lip-synch, but also the new performances stood out as poor matches for the original actors. It sounded like they hired the cheapest American actors they could find to redo the voices.

The rest of the mix worked fine, with effects that appeared vivid and dynamic, and music that seemed peppy and full. The mix’s flaws knocked it down to “B-“ level, but it never turned into a bad track.

The disc opens with ads for The Quarry, Trauma Center, Force of Nature and Survive the Night. We also find a trailer for Mask but we get no other extras.

Fans of 1990s action movies may feel enticed to view Iron Mask just to watch Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger battle. Ignore that temptation, as their brief bout can’t compensate for the idiocy on display across this incompetent cinematic product. The Blu-ray brings very good picture with inconsistent audio and no real bonus materials. This becomes a truly terrible movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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