There are a couple of odd things about this DVD release of 2018 Russian movie Iron Fury (aka T-34).
The first is that somewhere along the way, 31 minutes of it has gone missing for this release. The original Russian version clocks in at an impressive 139 minutes, while this Western release is only 108. The second is that this DVD has no options whatsoever for the audio language. You can choose stereo or Dolby surround and that’s it. Both of them are in English and the dub is, um… you get used to it, that’s the kindest thing that can be said here. You do eventually stop noticing how horribly out of place it is, how both over the top and strangely flat it manages to be at the same time. It’s reminiscent of the English dub for Das Boot, though that’s Shakespeare compared to Iron Fury.
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But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. This movie is a bombastic, patriotic, OORAH Russia and down with the stinking Germans heavy metal romp from start to finish, wonky dialogue insignificant in the face of slow-mo tank shells whizzing across the screen as this film sets out to show just what WW2-era tanks were capable of.
The plot is fairly straightforward. Our hero is Junior Lieutenant Nikolay Ivushkin (Alexander Petrov ) who is given a banged up tank and told to hold a village in the face of an impending German attack. He makes an impressive showing, but in the end the tank is disabled and he’s captured. Cut to down the line and the tank commander he faced in battle is now looking in a concentration camp for a POW tank crew who will be used as cannon fodder to train up German tank cadets. Nikolay gets to pick his crew and they are given a beaten up and supposedly defenceless Russian T-34. Nikolay senses an opportunity though, a chance for escape. After all, the Germans have just given them a tank so why not take it for a drive? All the way to the Czech border, for instance.
What follows is 40+ minutes of tanks, Tanks, TANKS. Things explode, metal grinds, manly men do manly things like drinking beer in their tanks and intimidating local policemen in between lots of shouting and dirt and grime and sweat. The action is engaging and there’s even some genuine tension in some scenes. The effects are well done, with the CGI noticeable but not jarring. The use of genuine T-34 tanks certainly helps with the air of realism, and there’s still very little in the way of weight to a VFX creation. There was obviously a lot of love put into this film by the production crew. For the opening battle in the village, for example, they built the entire thing from scratch and they didn’t just make cookie-cutter houses, oh no, each one was unique, with its own props and decorations that all get blown up, smashed up, set on fire or crushed within the first 25 minutes. That’s dedication.
The acting is, well, its fine. It’s difficult to judge due to everyone being muted by the somewhat-cringy English dub. There’s certainly a lot of emoting going on, lots of meaningful looks and patriotic fervor and the like. The driver, Stepan, is especially fun to watch, mainly due to his uncanny ability to conjure cigarettes out of thin air whenever the camera pans away.
In terms of this actual physical release, the movie is all you get. There’s a root menu on the DVD but not a single special feature to be found, not even a trailer. Boooo. As mentioned earlier, your language choices are English dub 2.0 stereo or English dub Dolby 5.1 with subtitles either on or off. A bit of a shame, but that seems to be how things go with a lot of releases now.
Iron Fury is a fun film. It’s a bit silly, it’s very chest-thumpingly patriotic, but it’s certainly never dull. I don’t regret the time I spent in the cramped confines of a Russian T-34 and I don’t think you will either. If you’re ever in the mood for some tank-smashing action that isn’t quite as dour and serious as Brad Pitt’s Fury, and you don’t fancy wading through The Pacific or Band of Brothers then check this one out.
Iron Fury is released on DVD on 27th January.