The Man With the Iron Fists is all about cheap, kitschy thrills
Starring RZA, Russell Crowe, and Lucy Liu. Rated R. Now playing
Considering the kind of grindhouse slop The Man With the Iron Fists pays homage to, there’s no point criticizing the film for its considerable flaws.
For the curious, the numerous problems start with acting that’s either strangely dead-eyed (writer-director RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan as the weapons-manufacturing Blacksmith) or insanely over the top (a disturbingly portly Russell Crowe as the booze-addled and perma-horny mercenary Jack Knife). Add shopworn dialogue ripped straight from B-movie night at the Hillcrest Drive-In, a visual approach that can charitably be described as workmanlike, and a story as convoluted as it is generic, and you’ve got what should be a straight-to-video mess.
Crazily, though, all the preceding somehow only adds to the blood-splattered fun of The Man With the Iron Fists. If RZA remembers anything from his Shaw Brothers–obsessed childhood, it’s that no one went to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin expecting Academy Award–winning filmmaking.
The iconic rapper’s directing debut transports us to an ancient Chinese frontier town/shithole called Jungle Village, where a war rages among a half-dozen different factions, including village prostitutes (led by an effective Lucy Liu), government assassins, and a corrupt ruling clan that appears to have an obesssion with ’80s hair metal. At stake is a huge cache of gold, but, really, who cares about all that?
The story is an afterthought, because RZA is more concerned with delivering an adrenaline-overdosed, authentic tribute to the kind of grainy kung-fu flicks that get screened on Friday nights at Quentin Tarantino’s house. Action sequences—set to mashup-friendly bangers by Kanye West and the Wu-Tang Clan—come fast, violent, and brilliantly bloody, with eyeballs flying, arms severed, and plasma spraying like Old Faithful. Artful? Not in the slightest, which, if you’ve seen Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, is exactly the point.
This one, unrepentantly, is all about the cheap, kitschy thrills.
Watch the red-band trailer for The Man With the Iron Fists.