Running Time: 93 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Man with the Iron fists is Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA take on the violent, badly dubbed but imaginative kung fu flicks of the 1970’s. With the help of Quentin Tarantino and co-writer/ producer, Eli Roth, he stars, directs and pens this muddled, camp and noisy yarn about a group of mercenaries, bounty hunters, monsters and psychopaths arriving at the not so welcoming, Jungle Village to rob a shipment of gold. The only person that stands to protect the village is Smith the Blacksmith (RZA) who set up business there after being saved from death and trained by a bunch of zen loving monks. His dream is to make enough money to free his prostitute girlfriend, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) from the clutches of her deadly mistress, Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) and for them both to ride off into more peaceful pastures. Numerous characters appear to exchange insults and square up to each other including the perverted and pompous ex-soldier, Jack Knife (a fantastic Russell Crowe), a blade flicking expert called Zen-Yi (Rick Yune) and the metal formed giant, Brass Body (WWF star, Dave Bautista). When one of the nastiest of the villain gangs hack off Smith’s hands for harbouring a wounded opponent, the blacksmith uses his yen training to infuse two iron hands to his arms and backbone. Most of the action, including the explosive and messy climax, takes place in Madam Blossom’s House of Pleasure (erhem!). The winner will take all.
RZA’s first stab at the martial arts genre is far from perfect. The dialogue is sloppy and some of the acting, including Mr RZA himself, is fairly poor. Sometimes the stylised camerawork and loud hip-hop soundtrack becomes a little overbearing and tiresome also. However there is no doubt that there is much fun to be had in what amounts to one big, bloody and visually stunning set piece. Heads roll, bones smash and blood sprays all over the place as one action scene follows another. Perhaps the best square off is between Smith and Brass Body as they both proceed to smash lumps out of each other. The sets and costumes are worth some praise also with the House of Pleasure fusing Chinese design with the interiors of the Moulin Rouge.
Although the acting consists of macho threats and boasting, Russell Crowe seems to be having great fun in his most flamboyant role for some time. He is hilarious as the sex starved mercenary, Jack Knife. He warns a group of hookers, ‘You are business [Looks at his knife], this is pleasure’ or the classic line, ‘My name is Mr Knife! You can call me Jack’. Lucy Liu is also happy to ham it up in a similar role to her mafia boss in Kill Bill. A scene where she orchestrates the slaughter of a male clan by the many members of her Silken Hookers is gruesome but well orchestrated.
Man with the Iron Fists is a slick, fast moving and gory little actioner that isn’t ashamed to camp things up into top gear. Although it misses the mark on a few occasions, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ll be more than a few kung fu fans eager to add this to their collection.