Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Man With The Iron Fists

Title: The Man With The Iron Fists
Director: RZA
Released: 2012
Staring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Byron Mann, Kuan Tai Chen

Plot: In nineteenth century China, Jungle Village is home to several warring clans. The village blacksmith (RZA) creates deadly weapons for the clans, intending to use his payments to purchase the freedom of his lover Lady Silk (Chung), and escape the village. The region's governor tasks the Lion Clan's leader Gold Lion (Chen) with protecting a large shipment of gold that must pass through the village. Gold is betrayed by his lieutenants Silver Lion (Mann) and Bronze Lion (Le), who plan to steal the gold. Gold's son Zen-Yi (Yune) soon learns of his father's murder and sets off to the village to seek revenge, while the Emperor’s undercover emissary Jack Knife (Crowe) arrives at Jungle Village to monitor the gold as the stage is soon set for epic showdown.

Review: Opening to a showdown between two martial arts masters, set to the beat of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame On A Nigga this opening scene essentially sets the tone of what is to follow here with Rapper, Producer, defacto leader of the Wu-Tang Clan making both his writing and directing debut. For the established RZA fanbase it will come as little surprise that he would choose to make an homage to the classic Kung fu movies of the Shaw Bros. Considering that how frequentlythese movies have been sampled for the Wu-Tang Clan’s albums, while RZA has frequently expressed his love for the Martial Arts genre in the past so it would only be inevitable that he would eventually get around to making one of his own. This is not to say that it has not happened through lack trying, considering that the project has been in development since 2003 when he was produced the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”, later being joined by Eli Roth after RZA explained the premise for the film to him on a flight from Iceland to LA.

As a fan of the movies that this film is drawing inspiration from, I certainly got a kick out of this film, in much the same way that I did with “Kill Bill” which clearly seems to have been the main source of directing inspiration for RZA with the film is very much in the same Neo-grindhouse style, while the “Quentin Tarantino Presents” label only further cements its place as part of the Neo Grindhouse world that Tarantino and Robert Rodreigez have been crafting over the last few years with films like Machete and most importantly “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof” the two films which made up their powerhouse double feature “Grindhouse”, which the UK would sadly never get to see when the Weinstein’s decided to use the US box office for the general opinion of the rest of the world (cheers for that). As with the other films which have appeared within the genre, RZA has not felt compelled to stick strictly to the Shaw Bros. template, something especially seen with him shunning a more traditional Asian soundtrack in favour of a more Hip Hop flavoured one, like the ones seen in both “Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai” and “Afro Samurai” (also produced by RZA) and the anime series “Samurai Champloo” and here it is none the less effective

The plot despite being multistrand, still works from the most paper thin of plotting, as Gold or revenge are the sole motivations for the characters seen here, with RZA’s blacksmith providing a gravely voice over generally provides any information you require regarding the various factions in play. Needless to say thanks to the sheer amount of characters involved it does get at times slightly confusing knowing who belongs with who. On the flip side of this though, the numerous characters are one of the strengths of the film, seeing how individual each one is, as RZA’s knowledge of the genre really comes into play, especially with his character design frequently giving nods to memorable characters from other Kung Fu movies, with a prime example being former WWE wrester turned MMA fighter David Bautista who here appears as Brass Body, seemingly a reworking of the steel body warlord seen in “Fist of the North Star” a film RZA has previous named as being one of his favourites. This is not however to say that every character is a copy or a reworking as the film still features plenty of truly original characters like Crowe’s Jack Knife and RZA’s titular iron armed blacksmith only add to the fun, much like the cameo’s by Pam Grier as the blacksmiths mother, aswell as Gordon Liu as his Kung Fu mentor “The Abbot” who appears in the mandatory training montage / flashback.

The cast all seem to be game  especially playing such frequently outlandish characters with Crowe handling most of the dramatic heavy lifting, while also getting most of the best lines in the film. Equally on form is Lucy Lui as local brothel owner Madame Blossom who also heads up her own kick ass team of female Ninja’s called “The Black Widows” as she reworks her “Kill Bill” character O-Ren Ishii with satisfying results. On the lower end of acting ability though is RZA, who while perhaps not exactly known for his acting ability is still watchable here, if still not exactly big emotion and certainly still manages to embody the role of the blacksmith aswell providing a suitably atmospheric voice over.

However the real star of the show is bone crunching fight scenes choreographed by Corey Yuen, with RZA aiming for spectacle and variety as each fight sequence is different from the next and culminating in a multi-fight brothel showdown which is very much a satisfying payoff to the film, despite RZA due to delays in shooting opting to use CGI for some of the more tricky gore aspect, which thankfully are subtle enough to go unnoticed, while Yuen’s inventive choreography provides more than an enough of an enjoyable distraction combined with some at times bold cinematography make for a powerful combination.

rue this film may have its flaws, but for the established ans of Hong Kong cinema they will find much to enjoy here, especially when the film is so stylistically close to its source material, yet still original enough to hold to eliminate any feelings of Déjà vu and compared to some of the films which have made this years “Best Film” list for the Oscars / BAFTA’s I would say with a perhaps a couple of exceptions (Django unchained being a main one) that this was a much more entertaining film and one I would love to revisit, over enduring one of those films again.


  1. Agree, one of the best of 2012, had a blast with this one as well, RZA was also inspired (partially) by Afro Samurai, which by the way he did the music for. He should've just done the Afrom Samurai movie!

    1. I really need to revisit the Afro Samurai movies and he may still make it considering how they are still tossing around the idea of a live action version.At the same time I would love to see him just making more original Kung Fu movies like this one.

      There is somthing about Hip Hop and Kung Fu which just goes hand in hand, much like the asian western which combine elements of pop samurai movies and spagetti westerns. While I have no real love for Westerns I can't seem to get enough of the Asian Westerns.

  2. Afro Samurai mixes hip hop and Kung Fu exquisetly, I think you will enjoy both movies, the animation is of the highest caliber, Samuel Jackson does the voice of Afro and his's a fantasy world type of deal that mixes Kung Fu with robots and will dig it no doubt.

    1. I have seen the first film but not resurection, but really need to look at both at some point soon, as I really enjoyed the first especially as it has some really random moments like the Samurai with the giant teddy bear head!


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