The Man with the Iron Fists

Directed By: RZA

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, RZA, Rick Yune, David Bautista, and Jamie Chung

Hurricane Sandy may have wreaked havoc upon movie theaters over the last week or so, but it looks like moviegoers on the East Coast have got a little cabin fever this weekend.  Business has certainly picked up at theaters, and it's the perfect time.  It's the start of the holiday movie season, and there's a little something for everyone.  For the kiddies, we've got the game-jumping Wreck-it Ralph.  For the older folks, we've got a more serious drama in the Denzel Washington vehicle Flight.  For everyone in between, we've got bloody martial arts flick The Man with the Iron Fists from Quentin Tarantino's boy RZA.

The Jungle Village is one of the most dangerous places in nineteenth century China.  Warring clans known as the Lions and the Wolves continuously tear the town apart.  When the governor entrusts the Golden Lion (Chen Kuan-tai), the leader of the Lions, with a mission to transport a large amount of gold, things get funny.  His lieutenants the Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and the Bronze Lion (Cung Le) turn on him and kill him for the gold.  When the Golden Lion's son Zen-Yin, also known as the X-Blade, learns of what has transpired, vengeance takes hold of him and he hits the road for Jungle Village. 

An escaped slave known as the Blacksmith (RZA) works in the town building the best weapons for both the Lions and the Wolves.  While he just wants to leave town with his girl Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), the powers that be aren't just going to let that happen.  When Zen-Yin lands in his room after a brutal fight with Brass Body (David Bautista), the Blacksmith finds himself in the midst of this chaos.  Meanwhile, the governor wants his gold and will kill whomever he must to reclaim it.  Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu), the owner of the Pink Blossom brothel, is trying to get her hands on some of that gold, and Englishman Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) seems intent on getting involved.

The Man with the Iron Fists has its problems.  The narrative is simplistic and completely predictable.  The dialogue can be terrible at times.  There's even some bad acting.  The Man with the Iron Fists is certainly a B movie.  Nonetheless, it's a surprisingly entertaining martial arts flick.  RZA has put together a fun film that will keep you either enjoying a good fight or getting a good chuckle.  That's all you really need in a martial arts flick.  Everything else doesn't matter.  Look at The Raid: Redemption earlier this year for example.  It suffers from many of the same problems as Iron Fists, but it's still awesome.

I've read that RZA studied his friend Quentin Tarantino's directing style in Beijing on the set of the Kill Bill films.  Well, that studying has clearly paid off.  With all the gore, RZA has definitely pulled a page out of the Tarantino playbook.  A strong soundtrack is also something that stands out in most Tarantino films, and RZA delivers that as well.  He's even brought in some Tarantino vets in Lucy Liu, Pam Grier, and Gordon Liu.  These are all good moves for a first-time director to be making.

The action throughout the film is pretty impressive.  Several actors really stand out in this area.  Rick Yune's X-Blade can definitely capture anybody's attention.  With a suit of knives, he kicks ass in every way possible.  Veteran action star Lucy Liu also brings her best to the film as Madam Blossom.  When she finally gets down and dirty, she is so incredibly deadly with those Chinese hand fans.  It’s impossible not to appreciate her fight scenes.  Finally, former WWE wrestler David Bautista brings a menacing presence to the big screen as Brass Body.  Though I wouldn't quite classify Brass Body delivering a power bomb or just punching the hell out of his enemies as martial arts, it's damn good entertainment.

I'm surprised by how hilarious The Man with the Iron Fists is.  RZA brings in the big guns with Russell Crowe.  As the mischievous Jack Knife, Crowe is clearly having fun on screen.  He's talking lots of trash.  He's taking guns to knife fights.  He's getting into whatever bloody pleasures he can find as well as some business endeavors at the Pink Blossom brothel.  Ultimately, this all translates to pure hilarity for the audience.

The Man with the Iron Fists may not be a film that showcases world-class storytelling or acting, but it's a fun film that will keep you entertained.  With some great action and quite a bit of comedy, Iron Fists gets a 0.06% rating.  Grab a few rounds of beer with this one.