Martial arts films have often been the subject of debate. Many believe they are weak attempts at a film, as they have little to no real story development more often than not. Others don’t really care so much about the story as they do the action. In their world, it is just a bloody good time. It depends on your preference, and how serious you take the movie as a whole. With that being said, how does RZA’s latest kung-fu movie, “The Man with the Iron Fists” hold up to your expectations?
RZA plays a blacksmith in a local Chinese village, who makes a living making incredible weaponry. Somewhere on the other edge of town lives a man who has just found out that his father has been murdered, so of course he must avenge him. On another side of town, we are introduced to Mr. Knife (Russell Crowe), who doesn’t seem to serve a real purpose for a great deal of the film. Finally, we have Brass Body (Dave Bautista), who for some reason or another can turn into solid brass at will. All of these characters are written around the idea that the emperor’s stash of gold has been stolen, and to retain balance to the town, they must retrieve that gold.
The story for this film will almost immediately confuse you. You will understand what it is going for pretty early on in the movie, but you will forget it once the fighting begins, and the stories interact with each other. What you will remember and take from the movie is probably something they didn’t intend on, which is how stereotypical the movie gets. The movie has a young man avenging his father’s death and then almost a nonstop display of martial arts and unbelievably over-the-top blood and gore. The rest of the story will all blend together in a mess of a plot.
It makes practically no sense why RZA is even in this Chinese village. They do explain it near the end, but it just feels like a cop out. If you decide to watch this film, you will realize that this man cannot act if his life depended on it. He was terrible in the movie. When it came to his scenes when he had to fight, you can tell he was nearly busting out laughing when doing the fight, not only this, but whoever choreographed his moves could have done the same to a blind four year-old. The absurdity does not end here, either. RZA also wrote and directed this film, now those two combined usually amounts to a respectful film, but the man can’t act or write.
Just look at how unoriginal everything in the movie is, and how cluttered everything seems. It’s almost impossible to even state positives, but there definitely are positives, which I will get to in a second. First, I want to point out what should have been easy to write, which was the characters names. You can see just how unoriginal of a writer RZA is when you have names like Brass Body – the guy whose body turns into brass. Next, we have Mr. Knife, the man with the fancy knife. Of course our main character…Blacksmith…a black smith…it never gets old. There are also obvious names throughout the film that just seem like lazy attempts. So how in the world could any good come from this?
Martial arts films in general never really have that great of a story. Some do, but in most cases, they really don’t. So even though the story is so badly written, it is more understanding under the context of martial arts. The fighting was also very well done for the most part, Lucy Liu reminded us of why we loved her back in “Kill Bill”. Also, let’s not forget that the overall look of the movie was beautiful, it looks perfect. In every way, shape, and form, this movie has the look of a genuine martial arts film. However, we have to go into the title.
Our blacksmith is the man with the iron fists talked about in the title; however those iron fists don’t show up till much later. That’s okay, as long as they make him an epic character once he dawns the fists. Was he? As mentioned above, his character was terrible all around, including and especially when he wore the fists. It was underwhelming simply because RZA was the worst fighter in the entire movie by a landslide. Russell Crowe was probably the best actor in the movie, but it begs to question why he even chose the role to begin with?
This movie is for martial arts lovers. Even then, they will realize that this movie was done pretty improperly, and could have used a great deal of help, but as long as they don’t try to fixate on what the story of the movie is, and just want to see some good fights, they should at least semi-enjoy this film.
“The Man with the Iron Fists” comes to Blu-Ray and DVD on Feb. 12!