Review: The Man with the Iron Fists / Cert: 18 / Director: RZA / Screenplay: RZA, Eli Roth / Starring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu / Release Date: Out Now
RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) is a renowned fan of Kung Fu movies, and this love is reflected in his directorial debut, a hyperactive grasshopper of a film that bounces between highs and lows while delivering a lot of fun and some spirited martial arts violence.
In the mythical Jungle Village, a blacksmith (RZA) forges weapons for the different clans who live there. But when the clans get wind of a gold transfer from their ruler, all hell breaks loose and they end up scrapping for the troublesome treasure. With the safety of the village threatened, the blacksmith steps into the fray himself.
Visually and soundwise (thanks to a razor-sharp score), the ensuing set-pieces bear more than a passing resemblance to RZA's music videos. But they're enlivened considerably by a cast of colourful characters, each with his or her own fighting style, wicked weaponry and memorable moniker. Lucy Liu brings a graceful feistiness to her role as madam of the Pink Blossom Brothel, Russell Crowe is clearly having fun as Jack Knife, spouting filthy dialogue with great relish (albeit in a wavering British accent). As Brass Body, Dave Bautista doesn’t have much to say, but his bulky physical presence works well, as do the SFX that turn his skin to metal. Meanwhile, RZA (co-scripting with Eli Roth) uses his undoubted skill at penning lyrics to come up with some zinging lines of dialogue. Throw in a pleasing old-school aesthetic (yellow subtitles!), and this is more than just a bloated vanity project.
On the downside, The Man with the Iron Fists suffers from a Tarantino rip-off vibe, and it sags in the middle as a result of the tyro director's determination to pack in as many genre tropes as possible. It’s understandable that, given a shot at making a Kung Fu homage, RZA should feel the need to include everything he loves about such films, but it's also a bit of a problem. Still, the gory, blood-splattered revenge story comes good at the end, and this long-cherished project fulfils many of its aspirations.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10