• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

The Man With the Iron Fists

The Man With the Iron Fists

Directed by RZA. Starring RZA, Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu, Pam Grier, Dennis Chan. (2012, R, 96 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 9, 2012

The directing debut of Wu-Tang Clan firebrand RZA is a loving, accurate homage to the legendary Shaw Brothers films that first inspired the chopsocky-mad lad to bring the pain (verbally, if not physically) and get his feisty, fisty flow on. With fight choreography by Corey Yuen (The Expendables), cameos from a panoply of Hong Kong’s finest (chief among them the great Gordon Liu), and a ramshackle plot that Quentin Tarantino might be hard-pressed to explain (Tarantino receives a “presented by” credit, and his frequent collaborator, Eli Roth, is one of the film’s producers and co-wrote the screenplay with RZA), RZA’s blood-drenched ode to his most beloved of all film genres is a beautiful, chaotic, nonsensical train wreck that is, nevertheless, well worth the ride for fans of Seventies-era Run Run and Runme Shaw productions. A word of advice: Have a few drinks beforehand, imagine yourself situated in the skeeviest rat-hole theatre on the Deuce (aka 42nd Street in Manhattan, circa 1977), and just go with it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll come to the conclusion, as I did, that the whole thing is a lark – albeit a heartfelt one. This is the RZA’s world. Dig it.

I know I mentioned a plot somewhere, so I’m pretty sure there was one, but I’ll be damned if I can untangle the dozens of strands seemingly involved therein. But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot: RZA is the Blacksmith, a badass tradesman beholden to the forever-warring clans of 19th century bad-guy backwater, Jungle City. He’s forced by circumstances to fashion ever more lethal murder mechanisms for the Lion Clan, Wolf Clan, Gemini Twins, Zen Yi (Yune, sporting porcupine-inspired, black-leather body armor that looks like the bastard couture offspring of Jean Paul Gaultier and Helmut Newton), and too many others to count. Planning to retire to the country with his beloved prostitute paramour, Lady Silk (Chung), the Blacksmith finds his plans disrupted when a gold fortune passes through Jungle City, attracting – natch – every feverish kung fu freak in the area.

Stout Russell Crowe turns up as the rogue Brit death machine, Jack Knife, and gets all the best lines. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Crowe try to enunciate around a mouthful of anal beads.) Lucy Liu’s Madam Blossom and her army of libidinously lethal sex kittens gives as good as she gets (and vice versa), and copious amounts of CGI gore splatter everything in sight. Why was this not presented in 3-D?

On the downside, RZA’s mumbled narration needs Mandarin subtitles to even be understood in English, performances are spotty at best, and the Blacksmith’s backstory feels like a prep class for Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained. There are enough “What the fuck?!” moments and severely wooden line readings on display to blow even the mind of Big Trouble in Little China’s wily Lo Pan. (That’s a compliment, by the way.) Like I said, let the brilliant, epic silliness of The Man With the Iron Fists engulf you in a tsunami of crimson cheese and you, like I, will have a super-happy-fun-big-smile-crazy-face-monkey-time. As every Shaolin warrior worth his chi knows, that’s really all you’ll ever need in this lifetime.

READ MORE
More RZA
Rock & Roll Books
The Tao of Wu
Follow these instructions, hip-grass-hop-per

Chase Hoffberger, Dec. 4, 2009

More RZA
Fantastic Fest: Yuen Woo-Ping Double Bill
Fantastic Fest: Yuen Woo-Ping Double Bill
The RZA and the Paramount kneel to the Master

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 26, 2010

A Word With RZA
A Word With RZA

Thomas Fawcett, June 11, 2008

More RZA Films
Brick Mansions
In one of his last roles, Paul Walker stars in this American remake of Luc Besson's actioner District B13.

Steve Davis, May 2, 2014

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
This overflowing action stew is loaded to the brim with half-formed ideas, action stereotypes, and hints of characters.

Louis Black, April 5, 2013

More by Marc Savlov
Ice Age: Collision Course
Latest entry of the series is overstuffed and meandering

July 22, 2016

Zero Days
Chilling cyber warfare doc explores the Stuxnet virus

July 22, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Man With the Iron Fists, RZA, RZA, Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu, Pam Grier, Dennis Chan

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)