Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Man with the Iron Fists

I wasn’t very excited to see the new film The Man with the Iron Fists, but when you’re a part of the Buddies Forever Movie Club, sometimes you have to acquiesce to your friends. In this case it was my old friend Carsen Nachreiner who was adamant RZA was going to make a good Kung Fu movie. We talked our other friend, Ben Robertson, and together the three of us went to see the action flick.

For those who don’t know, here’s the premise of The Man with the Iron Fists as described by IMDb: “On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.”

From what I understand, the film was a labor of love for RZA, who not only directed and starred in the film but also penned the screenplay alongside Eli Roth. It’s a well-known fact that RZA, who you may recall as the co-founder of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, is a fan of martial arts, so it wasn’t too surprising to see him construct a film around his infatuation. Luckily for him, he had Roth, who directed Cabin Fever and Hostel, helping him, and had the benefit of Quentin Tarantino presenting the film, though he didn’t have anything to do with it as far as I know. It just goes to show you the power of name recognition.

While this wasn't a Tarantino film, you could tell it was made in his style. The martial arts feel was reminiscent of the O-Ren Ishii scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1—ironically The Man with the Iron Fists also starred Lucy Liu—with all the limb snapping, blood spraying, and brutal deaths. If Tarantino is the master, Roth and RZA are his protégés.

Speaking of RZA, I think he did a decent job directing the film, which reminded me a lot of an outlandish comic book movie; by that I mean it contained wacky characters battling to different ends. The Man with the Iron Fists didn’t stray from the simple story, and incorporated the Tarantino-esque corny acting and camerawork, which I liked. If you go in thinking the filmmakers are going to play it straight, you’ll likely leave disappointed. As it was, I had low expectations and was pleased with how the film unfolded.

With that said, I wasn’t thrilled with RZA the actor. He just didn’t inspire as the title character, and there are at least a dozen actors I can think of better suited for the role. As a martial arts fan, it seemed RZA wanted to make this film for his own self gratification, so of course I can’t blame him for wanting to star in it. I’m just saying the role was better suited for someone else.

Ben and Carsen were the buddies for this movie.

Other than , I thought the acting was solid all around. Liu essentially reprised her Kill Bill role as her Madam Blossom wasn’t all that different from O-Ren Ishii (maybe a tad less brutal), and Russell Crowe was extremely entertaining as Jack Knife. I’m used to watching Crowe tackle serious roles, so it was cool to see him have a little fun.

I was also impressed with wrestling star Dave Bautista, who portrayed one of the film’s more memorable characters—Brass Body. Very few people meet the physical requirements of that role, and he did a good job stepping out of the ring and onto the big screen. I also think Rick Yune, ByronMann and mixed-martial artist Cung Le did great jobs with their roles and added a lot to the film.

I heard the film was originally over four hours long and RZA wanted to turn it into two films. Thank goodness they didn’t do that because, quite frankly, it’s not in the echelon of films that deserves such special treatment. Instead, it was cut down to a modest 98 minutes, and I think that was plenty of time to do it justice. Anything longer would have been too much.

The Man with the Iron Fists wasn’t spectacular, but it entertained. Surprisingly, I liked it the best out of the three buddies, no doubt a upshot of my low expectations. If you like kung fu and Tarantino-type movies—though you must remember he didn’t make this film—then I’d say it’s worth your time. If not, then I’d say it’s not for you.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 66%

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