Posted on November 11, 2012 AT 09:20pm
Martial Arts films are very hit and miss, especially for fans of the genre. Some films blend high-energy combat with an exciting story, and some fall a bit short of having it all come together in a way that doesn’t seem completely ridiculous and full of nonsense. When the announcement was made that hip-hop star RZA (who gained notoriety with his group the Wu-Tang Clan) had written, directed and would be starring in a new martial arts film, expectations were mixed, but mainly along the lines that this movies would be a whirlwind of violence and nonsense. RZA delivered in spades with The Man With The Iron Fists, delivering a brutal ride full of horrible stereotypes, terrible plot, crazy fight scenes and a surprisingly well-known cast including Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe.
The plot focuses on warring factions near the small town of Jungle Village, with an emphasis on the Blacksmith (RZA) and his weapon-making skills that benefit all factions. He struggles with the death his weapons have caused, but do so to help create an escape for himself and his love, the beautiful Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), who also happens to be a prostitute at the Pink Blossom, a high-end brothel run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu). The Lion Clan, run by Silver Lion (Byron Mann) is on their own quest to steal a massive stash of gold being delivered to the emperor. At the same time, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), son of the fallen Gold Lion is going to avenge his father’s death as Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) takes a vacation at the Blossom. All these plot points eventually fall together, tying up nicely in a muddled but neat package.
Everything about this movie screams that it’s an out of control train wreck of a film that has no idea what it wants to be or how it wants to go about being a legitimate martial arts movie, and it is.The Man With The Iron Fists is a wonderful train wreck that is so full or ridiculous moments that as long as the movies isn’t being taken seriously, is a very entertaining experience.
That being said, this movie is so awful that it’s a ton of fun. There are so few scenes that have any semblance of working inside reality that the entire film is hilarious due to how awful it is. Gravity is a fictional word in this reality, as is the thought of using the native language (Chinese) as the primary language in the film. While characters show the ability to speak Chinese, they nearly speak English exclusively, especially to RZA’s character who, despite living in China, doesn’t seem to speak a word of it.
The direction is solid enough that the film isn’t unwatchable, but there are clear cut examples that RZA is a first-time director. Many angles are poorly placed, the acting is awful, but it all works in a classic kung-fu movie style given a modern twist. Special effects are surprisingly well done, but most times resort to using easy effects such as poison effects on skin.
As mentioned, the acting is bad, but in a way that makes the entire movie entertaining and funny. Silver Lion (Mann) looks as though he stepped out of a time machine coming from 1986, the Blacksmith is the only African-American in the entire film (ironic, given the profession), and each line looks as though it’s been dubbed over, despite the fact that it is clearly not the case.
Summary: As much flak as this film has gotten, there is no mistaking how great it is, because of how bad everything about it is executed. This is a prime example of B-style movies that are so bad they’re wonderful, with every misstep being almost blatantly placed into the film for this exact reason.The Man With The Iron Fists seems as though it was terrible by design, with the clear intention of being so outlandish and poorly made that it was fun. Release all expectations about this being a realistic, logical film, sit back, turn your brain off and enjoy the carnage. As long as it’s not taken seriously, this movie is one of the best things to hit the cinema this year.
The Good:Special Effects And Weaponry Are Well-Done, Combat Is Strong.
The Bad: Basically Everything (Though In A Fun Way)
The Ugly: Silver Lion’s Hair.
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