THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS
** (out of 5)
November 2, 2012
RZA as BLACKSMITH
Rick Une as ZEN YI
Russell Crowe as JACK KNIFE
Lucy Liu as MADAM BLOSSOM
Dave Bautista as BRASS BODY
Jamie Chung as LADY SILK
Chung Le as BRONZE LION
Byron Mann as SILVER LION
Directed by: RZA
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Look, people… I have really wanted to love this recent wash of grindhouse homage movies. Some of them have been really pretty fun, like “Planet Terror” and “Hobo with a Shotgun” for the most part. But a lot of them have been disappointments. I’m talking about the boring and overwritten “Death Proof” and the oh-so-irreverent “Machete.”
So while I really wanted to love “The Man with the Iron Fists” for what it was trying to be, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. The core reason for this came to me when I thought about a film I saw recently: “Werewolves on Wheels.”
“Werewolves on Wheels” was made in the early 1970s, and the goofy-ass trailer was a favorite at all-night horror movie marathons in my home town. Just this past month, the actual movie was shown at one of these marathons. And it was bad. Not good-bad, mind you. It was just plain bad.
You see, there’s a reason most of these grindhouse movies that Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and RZA love so much are forgotten. They’re really kinda crappy films. And paying homage to crappy films simply leads to yet another crappy film. That’s the highest one can strive for with a movie like “The Man with the Iron Fists.”
The story comes from the grindhouse: In a 19th century Chinese village, warring clans have been fighting. A shipment of the Emperor’s gold comes through the village, and these clans start a war to take control of it. A local blacksmith teams up with a mysterious white man and the prostitutes in a brothel to protect their village from the warriors attacking.
Sure, it plays out like a cheesy kung fu movie from the 70s, but then again, it plays out like a cheesy kung fu movie from the 70s. There’s a lot of fight scenes, but they’re muddled with overused wire work and out-of-place split screens. At times, the film takes itself deathly seriously, but then other times it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
The main antagonists are the member of the Lion Clan, which sounds ferocious, but with too much product in their hair to make them look like they have manes, these warriors more closely resemble an 80s hair band. Worse yet, they’re led by Silver Lion (Byron Mann), who channels George Takei in his line delivery…. Oh, my!
The movie tries to be edgy throughout, showing graphic, bloody violence in the fight scenes. It also shows levels of debauchery that are simply unpleasant at times (including a disturbingly obese Russell Crowe ripping anal beads from out a prostitute in a bath tub). However, with all of this debauchery – and not to mention at least half of the film takes place inside the brothel itself – there is not a single shred of female nudity in the film.
Oh sure, you get to see Russell Crowe’s bitch tits, and RZA shows some nipples as well. But for a movie that is supposedly glorifying the excess and R-rated thrills of the grindhouse, this movie forgets to deliver on at least half of that.
This is RZA’s directorial debut, and it’s not terrible. But it’s not great, either. It’s, in fact, rather boring at times. The scant 95-minute running time seams painfully long, which supports the fact that grindhouse trailers are almost always more entertaining than the movies they advertise.