Title: The Man With the Iron Fists
Studio/Distributor: Universal Studios/Strike Entertainment
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, RZA, Rick Yune, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu, Andrew Ng, Kuan Tai Chen, Xue Jing Yao, Telly Liu
Writer(s): RZA (story), RZA, Eli Roth (screenplay)
Plot Synopsis: On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.
Bottom Line: I became an avid fan of classic martial arts movies when I saw Bruce Lee in “The Big Boss” (aka Fists of Fury) & “Fist of Fury” (aka The Chinese Connection). The way they were made, the way they were shot, the way the fights were choreographed. It was exhilarating, nonetheless. Soon after, The Weinstein’s Dragon Dynasty DVD line fueled my fandom even further with “SPL Kill Zone”, “City of Violence”, “Invincible Target”, as well as their Shaw Brothers titles like “Flying Guillotine”, “Flying Guillotine II” & “The Avenging Eagle”. I got excited for this smashing homage to the Hong Kong martial arts films of yesteryear when I saw a trailer and discovered quickly that I was in for a hell of a ride when Quentin Tarantino was presenting it, hip-hop iconoclast The RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan) was writing, directing & starring in the title role, and horror favorite Eli Roth was co-writing the film. Not to mention, an esteemed Oscar winning actor like Russell Crowe would take on a role in the film (probably as a favor to friend & former “American Gangster” co-star RZA). Clearly, these elements are what makes “The Man With The Iron Fists” work. Well, almost. There is a matter of RZA’s acting. It can get a little dry and stilted at times. Other than that, the movie works because I consider it to be a Shaw Brothers/Golden Harvest epic on steroids. The grandeur is more bigger, the scale & scope is more international, the violence is more over-the-top and the sex is more abundant than a movie made either by the Shaw’s or Raymond Chow. The story is pretty much what you expect from a SB production presented in Shaw Scope: in what looks to be feudal-era Hong Kong, a treasure containing an massive amount of gold is being hunted by an assorted group of colorful characters: deadly warriors, even deadlier assassins & a renegade British soldier named Jack Knife (Crowe, who’s adds a sense of scoundrel humor & charm to the role) who’s on vacation. They all want to get their hands on it and the warriors & assassins in question are willing to burn the small Jungle Village to the ground to do so. Not if the hero of our story has anything to do about it: a humble former slave turned weapons forger known only as Blacksmith (RZA), who’s looking to use the practices of his adopted Shaolin masters (led by the legendary Gordon Liu) to protect his village from destruction. The violent actions in the first & second acts all culminate in a spectacular final melee inside the Pink Blossom, a lotus-colored brothel controlled by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu), where the Blacksmith will exact vengeance on the ruthless Brass Body (Dave Bautista) who seized his girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) and took away his hands, which are replaced by the title weapon before the big climax. The movie is shot exactly like an old-school martial arts movie from Hong Kong, thanks to cinematographer Chan Chi Ying, and the music by RZA (co-scoring with Howard Drossin) completes the urban style that they were going, along with modern-day songs from the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, The Black Keys, Kanye West, Pusha T, among others. “The Man with the Iron Fists” is for those who are hip to martial arts, hip-hop & films that don’t require too much thought, so if you are not uptight, have a high tolerance for overtly gory violence and you can check your brain at the door and just have fun watching, then this is the movie to watch, especially if you consider having a Kung Fu movie night.