Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Man with the Iron Fists

RZA in The Man with the Iron Fists
** out of ****

The Man with the Iron Fists is the debut film by Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA. His long-time obsession with Kung-Fu movies has led him to making his own exploitation-style movie. As a director, his inspiration comes across well enough, but he doesn’t manage to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that come with directing for the first time.

Quentin Tarantino (this film’s producer) made his Kill Bill movies with a very similar purpose in mind but he knows how to borrow from low-brow cinema and augment the more valuable aspects in the artistic act of an homage. The RZA (who scored the first Kill Bill) doesn’t seem to be particularly selective and makes a movie that’s just as good -and bad as what he’s paying tribute too. I don’t sense a unique voice from him as a cinematic artist.

The story developed by RZA and Eli Roth is too crammed with conflicting characters to begin to explain it (The first cut of the film was four-hours and was then reduced to ninety minutes). Lets just say that the movie is set in nineteenth-century China. Starring RZA as a blacksmith, Rick Yune as a warrior, Lucy Liu as a whorehouse proprietor with tricks up her sleeve, and Russell Crowe as a lustful traveling Englishman who is not to be tested.
The movie has its moments but it doesn’t help at all that it is plagued with a lot of the standard problems that annoy me in modern action films. Fight scenes are filled with Michael Bay methods: Tight shots and quick editing that make it hard to get a sense of the space around the characters and who’s doing what. To make matters worse this movie has very obvious digital blood effects.

The Man with the Iron Fists has its share of deliberate corniness, wire tricks, cool stunts, and is acceptably set to modern rap music at times. The end result is still a B-movie, and maybe that’s all The RZA and co-writer Eli Roth wanted out of it, but it’s not a very gratifying one. 

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