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RZA, arguably the most heard of and recognized member of Wu Tang Clan makes his feature film directorial debut with The Man With The Iron Fists, a homage-fest that dons the styles of spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation and above all, the finest in Asian cinema (remember Monkey? You will after seeing the film’s lead villain). RZA’s known in the movie business mostly for his contributions to film soundtracks, one of his more memorable efforts being Kill Bill Volume 1, the influence more than shows.
Set in a village in feudal China, a large group of assassins, deceitful warrior clans (led by the film’s lead villain, Silver Lion, played by Byron Mann), a group of sexy yet deadly hookers with Lucy Liu as their Madame leader and the brass man (whose name can be taken in the literal sense) are all aware of a large shipment of the governor’s gold passing through the town and some of the motley crew listed above will chop off just about any limb standing in their way to get their hands on it.
Standing in the way with the intention of saving the locals, preventing bloodshed and restoring good will to the village is Zen Yi (Rick Yuen) who also wants revenge for the death of his father caused by Silver Lion, a rouge British agent with an appetite for hookers (played as mentioned earlier by Russell Crowe) and of course the film’s co-writer and director, RZA as a humble blacksmith ready to fight for what he loves. Can the gold be protected? Can peace be restored? Will vengeance and honour be satisfied?
With a title like The Man With The Iron Fists, what sort of movie would you expect? If you just said one with a complex plot embodied with rich characters, then please stop reading right now. This may be one of the silliest, dumbest, most insane movies to be released this year, it attempts to do a million things at once. The fun and success lie in the spectacle which RZA directs with flair and precision.
Yes, this is pure grindhouse but one of the tricks to a homage grindhouse flick which many recent films of its ilk forget to include is a story, if you’re going to incorporate silliness and unpredictability, at least have some form of a story surrounding it, and here they have one. It’s a perfectly serviceable story that supports the more ridiculous moments in the film, some of which look like skits from 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live, but in a movie where anything goes and the intention is to just have fun, the film is a fine success.
The performances should also be commended, Russell Crowe gives in one of his best performances (I’m not kidding) forget brilliant mathematician or paranoid school teacher, his breezy, fun yet perfectly timed performance as the unpredictable Jack Knife is one to behold. A wise move on his part to say yes to a film like this, especially when he can bring it home without any great effort.
RZA is the stone faced hero who does his job quietly yet we’re having too much fun to really complain, besides, his great directorial skills more than make up for it. Byron Mann also needs some attention, he camps it up with his performance as Silver Lion, a villain who dresses like a member of Heart and looks to be the majority stock holder of glitter. He owns every scene he’s in…even if it looks like he’s about to break dance after every line he delivers.
The Man With The Iron Fists is loud, dumb but a whole heap of fun, this is how you direct an ode to grindhouse, two teaspoons of story, a pinch of character development and an entire bucket of sex, blood and weaponry, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Writer(s): RZA & Eli Roth
Starring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Byron Mann, Lucy Liu, Rick Yuen
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Release Date(s): Australia: December 6, 2012; New Zealand: February 21, 2013; USA: November 2, 2012