Starring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu
You may like this if you liked: Kill Bill: Vol.1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003), Machete (Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez, 2010), Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders, 2009)
Well, in 19th century China (not that that is particularly relevant) in Jungle Village the Governor orders his vast amount of highly valuable gold to be moved. He is also betrayed and murdered by a man he trusted. Word gets out and so a plethora of assassins and warriors, the Governor’s son, as well as Russell Crowe all descend on the village to acquire this gold. All this carnage is watched over by a humble blacksmith (RZA) whose involvement is forced after his valued hands are chopped off and he becomes, well I think you have guessed what. There is no point in attempting to go into any more detail as the plot is actually pretty irrelevant. The tagline is “You do not spell kung fu without F and U”. Enough said really.
Of course, this being an apparent homage to exploitation films makes it notoriously difficult to criticise. There is poor editing, over the top hammed up acting, very little actual plot and terrible dialogue. Logic and sensible explanations are nowhere to be seen and there is no evidence of an attempt at such things which are the basics of good filmmaking. However it can be argued that this is all intentional. It is also predominantly quite boring though and there are elements where it does seem to take itself embarrassingly seriously.
There is quite a trend now to making films that are a ‘homage to exploitation but made in a post modern way’, that in itself is getting a little boring now as the novelty is wearing off very quickly. The barrage of (often blatant CGI) blood and guts rarely stops, and though gets a tad repetitive but admittedly it is so ridiculous that it does entertain. In between the orgy of violence is RZA’s blacksmith complete with cringe worthy voice over and a stoic, overlong, boring and completely deluded flashback. RZA himself is embarrassingly wooden, the man may have passion for this subject but is clearly not an actor.
On the subject of ‘acting’, Russell Crowe gives a larger than life performance (literally) and his character is a bizarre and outrageous creation depicted in a performance that is actually beyond words. Of course as someone who tends to play serious characters he is obviously allowed to let his hair down here and he really does do what the hell he likes. This may well have been contractual so they could have a big name attached to this film, but he is definitely enjoying himself and really does not care. It is the only memorable part of an otherwise forgettable film.
The Man with the Iron Fists is a hollow and forgettable experience, with the exception of Russell Crowe’s beyond words performance. The dialogue in between the extreme orgy of violence showing quite clearly that this is the work of a deluded and clueless film maker. The violence suffices at keeping things watchable enough, but a few alcoholic drinks and very low expectations would certainly help.