A sequel to one of the biggest Russian blockbusters is finally on a journey to the West. The Iron Mask, a new movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, is actually a sequel to the 2014 Russian fantasy film Viy. But just what are these movies about? And why are Chan and Schwarzenegger fighting each other (besides making all of our action movie dreams come true)?
Here's everything we know about The Iron Mask, from the plot and cast to its U.S. release date.
What is The Iron Mask?
The Iron Mask, originally titled Viy 2: Journey to China, is a Russian-Chinese fantasy film opening in the United States through distributor Universal Pictures. It is directed by Russian filmmaker Oleg Stepchenko, and is a sequel to Stepchenko's 2014 movie Viy. The movie was inspired by 19th century horror author Nikolai Gogol's novella Viy about a devilish creature with long eyelids.
While previous adaptations of Gogol's Viy geared towards horror, Stepchenko's films take on a more popcorn-blockbuster-style similar to Harry Potter or Jumanji. The first film was a major success in Russia, grossing the equivalent of $34 million in U.S. dollars in its domestic box office. It was later released stateside under the title, Forbidden Empire. Its success encouraged the producers to go big for the sequel, hence Schwarzenegger and Chan's casting.
Both movies star Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class) as Jonathan Green, an 18th-century cartographer. In Viy 2/The Iron Mask, Green embarks on a journey from England to China alongside Cheng Lan (Helen Yao), a Chinese traveler who acts as Green's bodyguard. The movie also stars Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and the late Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) in one of his last onscreen roles before his death in 2019.
The world-famous action heroes Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger also appear in smaller roles than the trailers imply. Jackie Chan plays an elderly kung fu wizard who comes face to face with Captain James Hook (Schwarzenegger), an English sea pirate seemingly inspired by Captain Hook from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Hook is a collector of historical relics, as evidenced by his unwillingness to let Jackie Chan use any of his weapons in their fight.
Wow, show me the Iron Mask trailer right this instant!
When is The Iron Mask U.S. release date?
Good question. We know based on this trailer that the movie releases in U.K. theaters on April 10, 2020. (It came out in China back in August 2019 and Russia in September 2019 and has already grossed $14.1 million worldwide.)
As for the U.S., as far as we can tell it's getting a straight-to-digital release on April 10, which means you'll be able to check it out on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and other digital storefronts.
So, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger are in Iron Mask?
Yes. It's not that weird. The two actors have been friends for a long time and have actually worked together before, in the 2004 Disney movie Around the World in 80 Days. In 2005, the two teamed up for an anti-piracy ad.
For the Expendables franchise, in which Schwarzenegger appeared alongside a murderer's row of action movie icons, Chan was approached for the sequels but turned them down because he wasn't offered enough screen time.
"I didn’t refuse, but I said, ‘Sly [Stallone], can’t we just do you and me? Not just a bunch of people and me only coming out for five minutes.’ Because then the audience is, ‘Oh!’ And then I’m gone," Chan told Den of Geek in 2014.
I think I've heard of Iron Mask before...
But when the movie entered post-production, legal disputes between the film's producing partners halted its release. In 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the movie finally set a release date for China, Russia. It wasn't until more recently that the film secured a North American release through Universal.
Are Iron King reviews positive or negative?
Because audiences outside the United States have already seen the film, you can find reviews with a quick Google search. Asian Film Strike praised Chan and Schwarzenegger's brief scenes but found the rest of the movie "derivative, abstruse, and occasionally cheap." Kidding Herself, a lifestyle blog written by an English mother living in Russia, wrote a positive review, saying: "Make no mistake, it was marvelously, wonderfully, gloriously silly. Highly recommended. Not least because seeing multiple characters from multiple cultures and/or nationalities represented more or less equally on screen was something of a novelty."
Can I stream Iron King online?
As far as we can tell, the answer is no. At least not legally. The movie did come out in China and Russia in 2019, so it's possible a non-English language version is out there somewhere, but it's not on any of the streaming services we typically use — it's not even available to rent or buy on Amazon.
For now, you'll have to wait for its theatrical release in the U.S.