Movie Review – The Man With The Iron Fists

I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when The Man With The Iron Fists was finally getting made.  Long has it been teased by first time director, Robert “RZA” Diggs, his dream of making a Kung Fu film could only be a true labor of love.  RZA being the myth-maker of The Wu-Tang Clan and collaborator on numerous film projects, all with a Kung Fu lean and most notably with Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, set out to make a throwback to the films that influenced his life.  A mix of wuxia, Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films and a penchant for all things beautifully absurd about the films he grew up with, The Man With The Iron Fists is ambitious and grandiose, but there in lies the problem with the film.

The Man With The Iron Fists is set during 19th century China in a village that plays out more like the Wild West with numerous clans vying for control of the village.  RZA plays the titular character only known as The Blacksmith, who is charged with making elaborate weapon for the warring clans.  His goal is to make enough money from weapon making to leave with his girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), who is an employee of Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu) who runs the local house of pleasure.  The Blacksmith is wrapped in a plan by the Lions to steal the gold that is traveling in a convoy by the government, thus starting a multiple clan war where everyone is killing one another to walk away with all the gold.  It is up to Iron Fists, The X-Blade (Rick Yune) and English knife wielder Jack Knife (Russel Crowe) to stop it all from taking place.

RZA has the best intentions with this movie.  A student of the Kung Fu genre, you can see all the little influences of previous chop sockey films that shaped this movie.  From the inclusion of multiple, one note fighters such as the Gemini Killers, Brass Body, Iron Fists and even The X-Blade, they all are slightly based on characters from other movies.  The elaborate fights scenes are plentiful with penchant for ultra-violence, making them beautiful and fun to watch.  And the reverence that is paid to the genre is clear and welcoming.  The problem is that there is just too much of all of this happening at once to make a fully coherent movie.

This is a prime case of less is more, but RZA kind of throws everything he loves into one movie causing a traffic jam of non-essential characters, overly elaborate weapons, gimmicky fights and stifling acting that doesn’t help the movie out.  It’s a film made by a lover of the genre, one who truly has a lovely appreciation of the genre he grew up with.  While that makes for a passionate project, it doesn’t help when you need a bit of perspective and limited scope to narrow this big movie.  Throwing everything you love into a movie is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t help those that are not familiar with the genre you enjoy.  Most people are going to see schlocky acting, over the top action and an incoherent story line that doesn’t go anywhere.

There are moments of brilliance though in Iron Fists, namely coming from Russel Crowe and Lucy Liu.  Hamming it up at every turn, their characters seem to truly embrace the wicked ways of this movie, reveling in the over the top nature of the movie.  Crowe is really my favorite character, a brash poon hound of a man who is a skilled man with a knife.  His Jack Knife spends more time between the legs of the fine females of the Tea House, giving us some humorous moments, but not without slicing men in half and being rather handy with a blade.    Lucy Liu looks like she was channeling Oren Ishi, which was a welcome sight as well-being a deadly foe in the movie.  Madame Blossom commands a bevy of killer ladies, all while smiling and wielding a deadly fan.

RZA as the Blacksmith is sadly the least inspiring character of the movie.  His acting is just not there and when you make yourself the lead in the movie, you better have the chops to carry the role and film.  His line delivery seems so monk like, even when the scene doesn’t call for some sort of stoic saying and needs more emotion.  The delivery is stiff and doesn’t hit as hard as his fists does.  Crowe and Yune carry him throughout the film, but his action sequences are gloriously violent and satisfying.

If you are a fan of Kung Fu films, then Iron Fists will be the sort of movie you appreciate on the surface.  It will take you back to your video rental days when you the description of the movie is enough to get you to buy it, but the overall film is nothing spectacular if you are wanting deep and fleshed out characters.  With too much happening in the movie, you lose some connection with what is being presented and just have to sit there and get assaulted with gore, limb losses, frenetic fight scenes and visually interesting set pieces.  If there was some restraint given to the film, it would have been a lot better.  For me, it seems RZA put all his love into the genre film and refused to take anything out.  I was at least entertained by the choreography and fight scenes, plus Crowe and Liu are the best of the bunch.  It’s just a little goes a long ways and The Man With The Iron Fists doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

Also if there is one thing that RZA can do extremely well, his soundtrack work is impeccable.

Rating: 3 Iron Fists out of 5

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

5 Responses to Movie Review – The Man With The Iron Fists

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Nick. Not perfect, but not terrible either. It’s a bunch of fun that shows RZA’s infatuation with kung-fu movies, however, I wish he would have done it in a better way that wasn’t so choppy.

    • Nick says:

      That’s my biggest complaint. RZA is a serious fan and student of the genre, but it just doesn’t translate into a coherent film. He has way too much fan service and Kung Fu flexing when he needed a more padded film with better exposition and tighter story frame. The action is great and vibrant, but it just seems utterly cluttered and too jammed together.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. mistylayne says:

    Good review for sure. I want to see this because it looks fun but I’m not expecting anything more than that from this and it looks like my expectations are right on track.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah I am big Kung Fu fan, so much so that I am talking with the Alamo Drafthouse to let me host a regular kung fu night 🙂 But yeah, the movie is a lot of fun, but as a coherent kung fu flick is lacks in a lot of departments.

  3. Pingback: Movie of the Day – The Man With The Iron Fists | Another Plot Device

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