For a film that has been more or less in development since RZA’s involvement in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films (2003), “The Man with the Iron Fists” feels like it needs another 18 months of production before it’s suitable for wide release.
“The Man with the Iron Fists” tells the tale of 19th century China, where, in the small village of Jungle, rival clans battle it out for a small fortune in gold.
RZA, who clearly enjoys the martial arts genre, does nothing to further the artform here. The fight sequences are weak and disjointed lacking any of the art and grace of even the lowest budgeted martial arts movies. That is to say, “The Man with the Iron Fists” lacks depth and soul. Being a fan of the genre, I found myself sinking further and further into my seat the longer the movie progressed as the disappointment began to pervade, and eventually dominate, the overall experience.
RZA, who wrote, directed, and stars in the movie as the blacksmith (“Iron Fists” himself) is also responsible for the music, which, from the get-go feels forced, contrived, completely out of place. As far as the music is concerned, there is none of the clever juxtaposition of genre you might see in, say, a Quentin Tarantino film. The soundtrack is laden with music that does nothing to elevate the film, instead effectively drowning out any and all emotion in a given scene. And Eli Roth (“Hostel”, “Inglourious Basterds”), who is credited as co-writing the film with RZA, leaves no tangible fingerprint on the film, which is disappointing as his attachment to the project is sure to be a draw for some moviegoers.
On a good note, there’s Lucy Liu (starring as Madame Blossom) and Russell Crowe (Jack Knife). Their performances make “The Man with the Iron Fists” almost (almost) watchable. Liu turns in a gracefully subtle performance as the madame of the Pink Blossom, Jungle Village’s brothel. Crowe, who has certainly aged (I prefer to think of it as becoming seasoned) a bit since his “Gladiator” days, is still, as ever, amazing to watch and I adore him as Jack Knife, the man with a penchant for both women (lots of them) and knives. His character is the most complicated and interesting thing about the film.
The film, which is very male-centric, garnered shouts and verbal approval from every male in the audience at the screening I attended. This doesn’t lend to my ultimate dissatisfaction of the film as a whole, but it does make me want to stay home and rent these kinds of films. After all, I don’t need to hear several dozen men grunting and hollering at women in various states of undress and distress. But I do see this a good sign for RZA who acknowledges his core audience is going to be predominantly male and young. So, indeed, if you’re male and young, this is a film for you!
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