[Review] The Man with the Iron Fists
I’ve always been a big fan of the Wu-Tang Clan. They came into hip hop before I was even a teen and they combined two things a little boy loves: martial arts movies and rap music. No one in the clan loved martial arts movies more than clan-leader The RZA, who if you ask most genre enthusiasts who know him, will tell you that he’s one of the best “encyclopedias” for martial arts films in the western world. The man loves his martial arts movies! So when it was announced that he would be writing, directing and teaming up with Eli Roth (of Inglorious Bastards fame) to create the film and a co-sign from Quentin Tarantino, I was excited to see what he would be able to come up with. Enter The Man With the Iron Fist (had to).
It’s 19th Century China and corrupt, evil clans cause Jungle Village to be one of the most dangerous villages in all the country. A treacherous leader named Silver Lion (Byron Mann) has plans to take over the town and cause even more mayhem in the village. A blacksmith named Thaddeus (RZA) is the best weapon maker in town and he has plans to leave with a local whore named Lady Silk played by the oh-so beautiful Jamie Chung who works for Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) in the most popular brothel in Jungle Village. Middle, middle, middle… evil clan kills the woman he loves… Thaddeus seeks vengeance.
It’s classic action/martial arts movie set-up which would normally work, but the problem with the film is that it tries to be more than it needs to be. When I think of great martial arts films, the plot supports the action and not the other way around. Here we’re pulled into unnecessary storylines, brothel sex scenes (which I really didn’t mind) and a lengthy origin story involving Thaddeus’ past and why he became who he became. BUT NOBODY CARES! An even greater sin is to have the central character be the worst actor amongst the group. An EVEN WORSE sin is that the most emotional moments, scenes and set-ups have to be delivered by him, which (sorry to say) doesn’t work.
Many of the best stylized fight scenes came from the first half of the movie and involved many of the films best action stars i.e. MMA star Cung Le and Chen Kuan-tai. The rest of the movie, we have to believe that The RZA and Russell Crowe’s fat ass are amongst the town’s fiercest kung-fu warriors. On a brighter note, as a first time director, the RZA does a good job with the lens. Crowe, Liu and Mann had strong, charming performances, but it wasn’t enough to make Iron Fists something that it tries to be, but can’t.
2.5 out of 5 stars