If you’ve ever heard a Wu-Tang Clan album, watched a classic Shaw Brothers martial arts flick, or a Spaghetti Western and enjoyed it then “The Man With the Iron Fists” is for you. Throw in the quirky cinematic tastes of Quentin Tarantino and his ilk and this film definitely is an enjoyable journey.
Wu-Tang mastermind The RZA stars in his first directorial debut co-created by another Tarantino protégé Eli Roth. Between Roth and RZA they have created a unique story that definitely stands next to the films that it pays homage to. It’s a simple set up: the emperor’s gold is traveling cross country and must travel through the chaotic town of Jungle Village where martial arts clans are always at war. In the middle of all this is the town Blacksmith played by RZA who makes the weapons used in these battles. A major war for the gold is about to begin with the lone Blacksmith caught dead center.
Let’s face facts, no one is going into this to see Oscar winning performances and to be enlightened by art. They want crazy martial arts action in a slightly unique setting. They want insane fights to sick beats. And that’s exactly what you get. From the opening of the film’s credits which immediately evokes memories of 70’s martial arts films but with Wu-Tang’s signature sound, to the fights, the movie moves at a crisp pace, and tells its simplistic story all the while entertaining you. Having veteran fight choreographer Corey Yuen in charge of your chop sockey action doesn’t hurt either.
The cast is made up of a who’s who of martial artists and action stars including Cung Le, Rick Yune, Dave Bautista, Chen Kuan-ti, and Gordon Liu, but it’s Byron Mann, Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe who really steal the show. Mann and Crowe in particular stood out for me. Crowe who has pretty much played subdued roles for the most part gets to go a bit over the top sometimes and it’s great to see, and the mystery of whose side he’s on was actually well played. Mann as the villainous Silver Lion was a highlight, almost emulating Prince’s effeminate yet hard demeanor. The man has some pretty hair but you do not want to mess with him.
RZA smartly played his character quietly except for the voiceover throughout the movie that was purely exposition but doesn’t hinder the movie. Speaking of RZA, he didn’t do badly at all for his debut. Other than some questionable over use of slide-panel editing towards the end I really thought he did a good job getting the camera where it needed to be and conveying his story.
I enjoyed “The Man with the Iron Fists” and it was exactly what I was expecting, a lovingly crafted homage to the martial arts films of yesteryear. I’d love to see what RZA’s original cut of this was like but I have to say RZA did good. In fact this was the first time in a while that I left a movie and wanted to go buy the soundtrack right away. I would love for this to get a sequel.
RZA (director) / RZA, Eli Roth (screenplay)
CAST: RZA … Blacksmith
Rick Yune … Zen Yi, The X-Blade
Russell Crowe … Jack Knife
Lucy Liu … Madam Blossom
Dave Bautista … Brass Body
Jamie Chung … Lady Silk
Cung Le … Bronze Lion
Byron Mann … Silver Lion
Daniel Wu … Poison Dagger
Zhu Zhu … Chi Chi