Man with the Iron Fists showed promise for about fifteen minutes and then began smashing itself in the head with its own fists for the duration.
This mess is brought to us by Grindhouse maestro Quentin Tarantino, but written by Eli (Hostel) Roth and writer/director/star, RZA. RZA has come a long way from Wu-Tang Clan, but by being the man in front of and behind the camera he definitely shows us that he isn’t really capable of being in either role.
Heavy-handed and filled to the brim with ham and cheese, this fabled yarn is supposed to give homage to Samurai seventies flicks. This was not produced by Tarantino, as he tells us with the “Quentin Tarantino Presents” opener and in a talking head promo before the movie that tells viewers to “check out my boy RZA’s new flick.” We can see why he loved the gore. But the film lacks his genius, which is an understatement of epic proportions.
The basic plot is a by-the-numbers Samurai saga of feudal battling between clans. It’s packed with action, double crosses, loyalty, dishonesty, good, evil and, yes, love. This flick is a combo of Kill Bill theatrics and Little House on the Prairie sentimentality. This is just wrong on every level.
Beginning with great credits, Man with the Iron Fists initially keeps up the momentum, but then meanders into a compost pile of generic disasters that come one after another. RZA is the village blacksmith who makes bad-ass weapons for rivaling clans and feels bad about it. Led by his undying love for the hooker with the heart of gold, he plans to save enough money to get her out of the whorehouse and leave the God forsaken hellhole called Jungle Village.
This brings me to my first huge gripe—Roth and RZA show absolute laziness by using really uninventive names for things like “Jungle Village.” Lion Clan leaders are named “Gold,” “Silver,” “Bronze,” etc. This tactic might have worked in Reservoir Dogs, but here these names irritate rather then invoke humor.
The cheesy soundtrack interspersed with rap music constantly highlights that Fists doesn’t know what genre to be. CGI blood spurts, pours, sprays, oozes and squirts with no real coherency. Bloodletting occasions are, at times, few and far between and other times it’s a Niagara Falls of red.
The fight scenes are so muddy and poorly edited that it’s really hard to see any competent wirework. Too many quick cuts destroy almost every scene. What the film lacks is Robert Rodriguez’s style of impeccable editing. It’s hard enough to decipher the action onscreen and then RZA goes split-screen, making it all the more confusing and totally unnecessary.
By the time the man gets his iron fists the movie doesn’t pack any punch. Then we have those Iron Chef swoosh noises whenever anyone turns their head, a Buddhist back story that’s all Kung-Fu “grasshopper,” Riki-Oh gore scenes, and an Enter the Dragon climatic fight scene. In other words, nothing we haven’t seen before.
Trying to be constantly clever, Fists is worse than a cheap rip-off because it’s actually lamer than the B movies it wants to make fun of. Roth and Tarantino like to put their names on off-beat homage, but this movie is a sideswipe attempt to entertain while laughing all the way to the bank and bragging ,“Hey, look at all the stuff we know about movies,” and giving us a bad one as a result.
Man with the Iron Fists
Starring Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, RZA
Directed by RZA