GORE IN THE STORE
IRON FURY *
Directed by Aleksey Sidorov. Starring Alexander Petrov, Vinzenz Kiefer.
War, Russia, cert 12. 108 mins.
Released in the UK on DVD and Digital Download by Altitude on 27th January.
Titled T-34 when released in Russia, where it went on to become a huge box office hit, this World War 2 action flick arrives in the U.K. on DVD dubbed into English with nearly half an hour edited out for international release. Described as Fast and the Furious with tanks by its producers, who are keen on making this its main selling point, this point comes across as slightly redundant seeing as Fast and the Furious with tanks is surely just Fast and the Furious as tanks have already featured in that long running franchise. What it also has in common is a simplistic approach to its storytelling flavoured with CGI laden action setpieces in an attempt to appeal to as large an audience as possible.
Iron Fury tells the story of Nikolay, played by Alexander Petrov, a Russian tank commander who proves an equal match to his German counterpart, the literally battle scarred Jager, played by Vinzenz Kiefer. Years after their first encounter in battle the two find themselves face to face when Nikolay is held captive in a German POW camp wherein Jager enlists him to train German tank commanders and drivers. Nikolay however still holds his motherlands ideals and with the help of his reunited crew plans an escape in their newly commandeered T-34 tank.
Without going into spoilers the main bulk of the film is taken up by Jager’s pursuit of Nikolay as their tanks speed through the countryside to get to the border. The pace of it all is nicely handled and speeds along without boredom really setting in. This speed however does little to help suspend the viewers disbelief with its across the board lightweight touch.
It is a storyline that is frankly daft and has plot holes big enough to drive a fleet of tanks through. The simplistic approach to its story is exacerbated by its character work. The goodies are good and the baddies are bad and there is no time for anything else, let alone nuance, conflict or even character development. The character of the camps translator Anya, Irena Starshenbaum, is even more one dimensional. The only female with a speaking part she serves no more part to the film than as a hastily introduced love interest who helps the plot move along when needed. Such nuance or shades of grey were probably terminated at whatever stage of development when the Russian Ministry of Culture stepped in and agreed to supply part of the budget. Any serious examination of the fierce conflict between the Russians and Germans is ignored in favour of repeatedly showing tank battles in bullet-time style, the overused stylistic format so favoured by directors ripping off the Wachowski’s in the first decade of this century.
It fails in comparison to other war movies confined to close spaced mechanical surroundings. The tension of DAS BOOT (1981) or the heightened claustrophobia of LEBANON: THE SOLDIERS JOURNEY (2009) which serve as reminders of what can be accomplished and examined when taken seriously are completely absent from Iron Fury. Even the harrowing effects of combat, as seen in David Ayer’s Brad Pitt starring tank opus FURY (2014) are eschewed in favour of the portrayal of the ever noble spirit of the Russian soldiers seen here.
Extras on the DVD are absent. As is the option to watch the film in its original language. The decision to have the characters talk in near identical transatlantic accents robs the film of its identity only further highlighting its already bland and bloodless nature. As a slice of vehicular pursuit and destruction it barely passes muster, serving only as a lightweight diversion and nothing really more.