The Man with the Iron Fists Review: A Fun, Splashy Kung Fu Sendup

Wu-Tang Clan’s de facto leader RZA really loves his kung fu.  His passion for these martial arts films shines throughout this poppy and exuberant homage.

 

Brought to you by Universal Pictures and Quentin Tarantino, Man with the Iron Fists harkens back to the old days of kung fu cinema, with a little bit of blaxploitation films and spaghetti westerns thrown in too.  Tarantino’s presence can be felt everywhere you look.  RZA, who also co-wrote the film with Eli Roth, has taken a page from the director’s book with his flashy, pop-art visual style and over the top violence.  The dialogue is nowhere near as snappy, but it serves the purpose of being authentic, and is reminiscent of classic kung fu movies such as Crippled Avengers and The Bride with White Hair.

The story revolves around a young Blacksmith (RZA), who makes weapons for the various clans and gangs living in the fictional Jungle Village.  A troubled man with a complicated past, Blacksmith is looking to leave the violent village behind with his lover Lady Silk (the seductive Jamie Chung).    His plans change, however, when Silver Lion (Byron Mann) of the Lion Clan betrays his leader in order to take government gold for himself.  It spurs an all-out war.  Things come to a head in Madam Blossom’s (Lucy Liu) whorehouse, when a mysterious traveler named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) comes looking for the gold as well.

The big name cast will certainly be one of this film’s main draws.  Liu and Crowe seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as they ham it up onscreen, and also prove to be a pair of badass action stars.  Mann provides himself as a worthy villain, and WWF fighter Dave Bautista also has a good time playing the super powered assassin Brass Body.  The colorful filming style lends itself to a plethora of gorgeously shot fight sequences, but squeamish viewers beware.  As mentioned before, this is a film from the Tarantino camp.  Blood is spilled–lots of it–and bones are broken.

The film’s main setback, however, seems to come from its leading man.  A known lover of all things kung fu, RZA’s decision to cast himself in his own movie is an understandable one.  But the man should really stick to directing…and hip-hop.  While the other stars have fun with their characters, RZA seems to take himself very seriously, resulting in some stiff, monotone line delivery.  The character he’s created is interesting for sure, but he’s not believable in his emotions.  The rapper is at his best when he’s in battle mode, and it’s clear he really loves this genre as he flips, kicks, and punches his way through his foes.  Delivering his dialogue is when he unfortunately falls flat.

The movie works so well, though, because it’s so great to watch something made with such love.  RZA knows his stuff, and this film will most certainly please fans of the kung fu genre.  Sure, the dialogue is a bit cheesy, but it’s a fine quality cheese that can still be appreciated.  It’s all just a good time, and never takes itself too seriously so neither should you.  With a thumping soundtrack and energetic action and stunts, Man with the Iron Fists is a swift kick to the face in the best way possible.  Grade: B+

 

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