The Man With The Iron Fists REVIEW

The Man With The Iron Fists film review: Kung Feud.

Well, it beats having a copper bottom.

Release Date: 7 December 2012
18 | 95 minutes
Distributor: Universal
Director: RZA
Cast: RZA, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, David Bautista

Warriors. Whore-riors. Wirework. A towering brick outhouse of a man whose skin can convert to brass so as to defend against any strike. A former slave-turned-blacksmith who trains in the art of badass Zen with monks and channels his Chi energy to wield forged fists against his enemies. The kitchen sink. Okay, that last item isn’t actually in Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA’s directorial debut, but it might as well be. Because The Man With The Iron Fists is the poster child for the rationale that if you take all your favourite grindhouse-level kung fu action films and run them through a meat grinder, the result will be just another chop schlocky outing. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

Our writer/director/star got his big chance when he worked on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. QT hooked him up with Eli Roth as co-writer and producer and encouraged him to homage everything he loves about stylised action and basic story beats. Which means we get a living Top Trumps of weapons, near-magical powers and methods as clans come together to kick, punch, stab, slice, shoot and otherwise mangle each other over a hoard of gold being transported through a violent village. Caught in the middle is RZA’s Smith (honestly, his name is Smith the Blacksmith) who just wants to earn enough money to leave with his favourite girl (Jamie Chung’s Lady Silk).

The plot feels less like a story and more like a wish list of cool stuff dreamt up by the director and his pals, and it all adds up to less than the sum of its blood-soaked parts. There are also some tonal wobbles – RZA plays it gritty as the hero, but others are clearly relishing the chance to be hammier than pork rinds. That list includes Russell Crowe as Jack Knife, a blade-favouring fighter and Lucy Liu’s Madam Blossom, owner of the local house of ill repute, who also has a neat line in dangerous fans. Then there’s Byron Mann’s Silver Lion, who at times approaches levels of gloating and mania broad enough to register on the Takei scale of camp.

So The Man With The Iron Fists definitely isn’t the most polished first effort. But if you approach it as a sloppy, OTT martial arts outing, you’ll find the fun too.

James White

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