MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 5.5/10
For those of you like myself who grew up idolizing the bad-assness of RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan, the announcement of his directorial debut was exciting to say the least. Better yet, it was going to be a Kung Fu flick that was being made with the help of Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino. This announcement almost made my head explode, and I was certain this was going to be something epic. Unfortunately I was completely incorrect, as The Man with the Iron Fists brings more flaws to the table than bad assery.
The film revolves around a colorful group of characters who (mostly) all want to get their mits on the Governors stockpile of gold that’s being transported through a small place called Jungle Village. Trouble ensues as rival clans fight over the gold and RZA, a quiet blacksmith, gets caught in the middle.
The opening credits start the flick off with a bang. The classic looking titles over some awesomely violent imagery and a great score set up what you think the tone of the film will be. While this classic Hong Kong film look does sort of come back in the final act, it’s a shame the entire film doesn’t adopt this style and flare.
The best way to sum up nearly every aspect of this film is inconsistent. Everything is hit or miss, and there’s no feeling of congruence anywhere in the movie. The directing is spotty, with pointless narration and flashbacks. There are so many characters in this film, dedicating any time to hearing their backstory feels unnecessary, especially since we just want to see them kill people. The extended flashback felt doubly pointless. Although the filmmakers thought it was necessary to explain how RZA ended up in Asia, I could have cared less. Moreover, if you leave the theater asking yourself “How did a black guy wind up in Asia?” and not “How did that guy turn himself into bronze?” then you’re an idiot…and racist.
The cast is solid, especially if you’re a fan of Hong Kong cinema, but for every well-delivered line, there were several stinkers. The acting ran the gamete from great to nearly horrendous with great performances from Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, to horrendous performances from RZA and nearly everyone else. RZA still gets a small pass from me on this, since he’s trying to juggle acting, directing, producing, and writing, but I know he can act better than this.
The fight scenes are the film’s bread and butter, and while they aren’t earth shattering, they are still fun. The stellar soundtrack compliments the fights nicely, and fans of blood and guts will get their fill, with blood spurting with nearly every passing moment. Some of the set pieces pay clear homage to films like Enter the Dragon, and it’s nice to see RZA put his wealth of Hong Kong cinema knowledge onto the screen himself.
The fights are a little too few and far between however, and will leave you wanting more. Many of the more epic battles end too abruptly and have a very anti-climactic feel. The camerawork was also not the best during these fights, many times causing confusion about who was kicking who, or which dude just got his throat ripped.
In the end, The Man with the Iron Fists is an admirable debut film from RZA, and a decent attempt at paying homage to classic Kung Fu films, but it just doesn’t deliver. That being said, even with it’s glaring problems, it somehow still remains a fun watch, and seeing this should be a no-brainer for fans of martial arts cinema or Wu-Tang. My suggestion- leave your brain at the door, throw your W in the air, and just enjoy yourself.