Page 1 of 3
"I'll see you in Hell!" "I suppose you will - I'll save you a spot by the fire..."
Universal / 107 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: February 12, 2013
The RZA’s action fantasia The Man With the Iron Fists is a stoner-samurai romp of outrageous proportions. This zany compilation of martial arts movie cliches and out-there pop culture references are nearly impossible to keep up with, but somehow as both star and directorial architect of this weird-ass thing, RZA keeps The Man With the Iron Fists chugging along.
Here’s the set-up. We begin in China somewhere in the 1800s, and there’s a war going on. Rival clans of warriors are splintering and combating one another with frequent ferocity, and no one knows who to trust or who to align themselves with. We set our eyes on a Blacksmith (RZA), who truly finds disquiet in figuring out where to hitch his wagon (and in deciding whether he even wants to participate in these battles at all). Oh, who am I kidding? - the dude readies for battle and starts purging The Man With the Iron Fists of as many baddies as possible in 110 minutes.
The movie as a whole is all over the place in pretty much every regard, but that seems to be what The RZA was going for. The Man With the Iron Fists is not a subtle movie - this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise - but this is no mere genre homage: RZA definitely shares producer Quentin Tarantino’s love of retro actioners, but there is definitely a unique personal spin that the director gives his debut. The argument that The Man With the Iron Fists is a simple vanity project through and through has its merits, I suppose, but RZA somehow turns his rambunctious picture into a fun, often insane martial arts experience.
The real shock - at least to this viewer - is the movie’s star power. RZA makes a grand, stoic protagonist, to be sure, but Russell Crowe as a sneaky politician named Jack Knife frequently inspires a viewer double-take, and even Lucy Liu is able to chew some scenery with Hollywood-marquee verve whenever she shows up on screen. In fact, this big-budget pedigree may be The Man With the Iron Fists’ most valuable asset. The picture itself is probably a mess, but there’s enough cool Hollywood fairy dust sprinkled on the thing that those with even the most cursory interest in The Man With the Iron Fists will find some crazy fun within its walls.