The Man With The Iron Fists is, perhaps, the guiltiest pleasure of the year. This film has it all; great acting–check, great soundtrack–check, great one-liner quotes–check, originality–double check. The screenplay for Man With The Iron Fists was written by Robert Diggs aka Rza and Eli Roth (Grindhouse, Hostel, Cabin Fever). This is Rza’s first foray into screenplay writing, as well as his directorial debut and acting debut as a leading man and he successfully created an entertaining film.
The film is about a treasure of gold that creates chaos in a village in China, most of which is caused by Silver Lion (Byron Mann), a man who has newly become leader of his clan and is chasing after the golden treasure. Silver Lion wreaks havoc on the Chinese village, which Blacksmith (Rza) tries to protect because of his love Lady Silk’s (Jamie Chung) presence in the village. We won’t spoil the movie for you, but Blacksmith, Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) and Zen Yi (Rick Yune) end up working together to save the treasure and the village from the lion clan’s Silver Lion, Bronze Lion (Cung Le), Poison Dagger (Daniel Wu), and Brass Body (Dave Bautista) whom is working with the lion clan.
Russell Crowe is very entertaining with his character, Jack Knife. From his first scene, in which he walks into Madam Blossom’s whorehouse, Jack Knife stands out in the film as a one-of-a-kind killer. He practically cuts a very large fat man in half with his little dagger gun and then shrugs it off and continues about his business with the ladies. Jack Knife also throws in a couple hilarious lines in the film (lines that were actually intended for laughs), such as asking Madam Blossom if he can put his “baby arm inside” of her. Hearing such foul language from a supposed upscale Englishman gave us a good laugh.
Lucy Liu’s performance as Madam Blossom was also notable. She created a very powerful yet sexy woman figure for the film. In one of the final scenes in the movie, Madam Blossom gives the ladies of the whorehouse a motivational speech by saying, “Power belongs to no one until it is seized through sex or violence or gold,” (as we saw in the movie’s trailer).
Dave Bautista actually played the villain quite well–boy, that WWE acting must really be paying off. While he didn’t have much to say in the film, he was an intimidating force to be reckoned with and we’d be afraid to call his performance anything less than good–ya know, in case he were to read this.
The characters in the film had a Mortal Kombat-y feel to them, all having their own unique abilities/weaponry. Blacksmith creates his own iron fists (hence the title of the film) after his arms are brutally chopped off. Jack Knife uses an awesome spinning knife/gun combo in battle. Madam Blossom uses a fan blade to kill her foes. Zen Yi, also known as X-Blade in the film, uses a suit that has many different blades on it. Poison Dagger has a spit tube filled with poison darts. And, last but certainly not least, Brass Body has, well, a body that can turn completely into brass.
The action fight sequences in this film are mostly over-choreographed–typical of the 1970s kung fu movies the film is an homage to. However, this hyper-stylized way of fighting creates a film that is never dull. The movie has plenty of killing throughout these battles, and most of the kills are in a unique way but every one is a bloodbath.
While Rza’s directing style is clearly influenced by Quentin Tarantino, it is difficult to fully judge his directorial debut because of the genre. We can, at least, say that the movie was a valiant first attempt on Rza’s part, and hopefully his next venture (a Genghis Khan biopic) will follow in a similar vein, yet take a more serious approach. However, we can also say that Rza should remove himself from lead acting. Rza as lead actor just felt off, to put it bluntly. His acting is not typical of we felt this leading role required, yet Rza does enough to not completely ruin the movie. Don’t expect a Will Smith-esque rapper-turned-actor performance here.
The soundtrack for The Man With The Iron Fists was also a standout in the film. It was composed by Rza and Howard Drossin (Cadillac Records, Inside Man, 25th Hour) and is clearly Oscar worthy. However, it is doubtful that the Academy would even recognize Rza or Drossin for their efforts here. This is the type of movie that tends to be overlooked when Oscar season rolls around. As expected, Rza also added numerous Wu-Tang tracks to the movie, which actually fit into the fight sequences quite well. Hearing Wu-Tang’s “Rivers of Blood” while two Chinese men kill each other just felt right. Also, classic ’70s tunes, such as “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” by the Revelations, fit well into the film. Most notable about the soundtrack was during Blacksmith and Brass Body’s final fight scene; the song chosen really created an epic feel for the fight. Even if you do not plan on seeing this movie, we strongly suggest that you purchase this soundtrack for your iPod (if nothing else, it will make a great soundtrack for your workout). Also, throughout the movie, classic punch and kick sounds reminiscent of 1960s Batman are used which contribute to the movie’s over-the-top toast to classic kung fu films.
For what it is–a heartfelt ode to classic kung fu movies–The Man With The Iron Fists shines and impresses. The film is delightfully goofy while still remaining gritty and creates a unique movie going experience unlike any other film this year. In fact, we would call The Man With The Iron Fists the most unique film of the year. The film does have a niche market, however. Guys–I wouldn’t recommend bringing your girl to it unless, you know, she happens to love the Kill Bill films. But if she doesn’t happen to love a campy, blood spraying melee of a fight scene, go with a friend or two instead. The film is much more enjoyable if you and whoever you’re with can laugh together throughout and afterwards. Don’t expect an Academy Award for best picture here, but we highly recommend seeing The Man With The Iron Fists for all that it is. You will not be disappointed.