The Man with the Iron Fists

Hyper-stylized, comically violent, and chock full of crazy, kung fu characters, “The Man with the Iron Fists” knows what it is, and knows why the people watching bought their ticket. It’s fun in a tongue in cheek kind of way, as characters with names like “Bronze Body”, “Silver Lion”, and “Jack Knife” fight using all manner of fantastical weaponry and wire work.

Certainly silly at times, but entertaining in its own kind of fashion.

Jungle Village is a village in 19th century China. Within, several factions fight continually for control. One such clan, the Lion clan, is asked to provide security as a shipment of the Emperor’s gold makes it way through the village and to the north. This deal leads to a betrayal within the clan, however. The leader of the Lions is assassinated by his lieutenants, who want to steal the gold as it passes through.

This throws the village into chaos, as a number of things happen. The son of the assassinated warlord begins to head back to the village, seeking revenge. The peace-loving blacksmith (RZA) has to work double time as weapons orders pour in from both sides. An opium addled emissary of the Emperor (Russel Crowe) rolls in to town, and holds up at the local brothel, run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu). Bronze Body, a hulking brute of a man who can turn his body to metal, throws his talents into the mix. As all of this happens, the gold caravan, guarded by the feared Gemini Twins, slowly approaches.

If this sounds like a recipe for a wild Kung fu rumble, it is. RZA (who wrote, starred and directed, here) has put together a film where crazy characters and wild action are paramount. Aside from hand to hand martial arts, the players wield every sort of weapon imaginable. Suite of armor that fire spikes, poisoned blow darts, a huge combo gun/knife, and of course, the “iron fists” of the title. There’s plenty of wire work to go around, as well.

Character-wise, like a film by the film’s presenter, Quentin Tarantino, every player who appears has a backstory and a motivation. Crowe plays a drunken lech out to have a good time while ensuring safe passage for he gold, and Lucy Liu plays a task master Madam. Both have a good time with their roles, and easily they’re the high point of the movie.

Some of the other actors are a little stiff, but the style of the movie carries the day. Fights break out every out every five minutes or so, all set to a hip hop soundtrack compiled by RZA himself. He also shoots the movie with the occasional stylings of the 70s Kung Fu movies he so obviously must love.

It all comes together in a movie that doesn’t try to do anything aside from having some fun. It’s certainly disposable entertainment, but it is entertaining.

B-

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19 thoughts on “The Man with the Iron Fists

  1. The whole idea of this seemed like a joke when I first saw it…but it’s growing on me bit by bit…is it sort of like (teeheehee) Resident Evil in its goofy goriness? Sorry to bring that beast up every single time I comment lol!

    • No it’s cool. I think the difference is, this one is goofy, but you could keep a straight face if you were telling someone it was decent. You know? Resident Evil needs that “teeheehee”. LOL.

      It certainly is kind of turn off your brain and enjoy some Kung Fu over the top fun. I cant argue for it too much, but I cant deny I enjoyed it either Livi! :D

    • You wont be missing anything. I thought it was fun, but it wont even rise to the level of “pop culture footnote”. ;)

      It is a fun turn from Crowe though if you ever want to keep that in mind if it crosses your path….

  2. I flushd this one. It was a mess. RZA was the most boring person in the entire film. So many people you needed a score card to tell who was who. The weapons were cooler than the action. Basically this was one big mess for me.

    • I wont argue it. I can totally see that about RZA. You’re spot on. Had the feel of a vanity project at times, with him writing, starring and directing, you know?

      For me, Liu and Crowe plus the over the top characters were enough to give it my minimum good grade.

  3. Tank Sr. is right RZA is the worst actor in the film and probably had to sleep with the director to get the part.
    Stupid fun for stupid people like me. Watchable but not memorable (Except for the fact that Crowe is in walrus mode here).

  4. RZA’s acting wasn’t great. But his storytelling was much better. The tribute to the 70’s kung fu movies was obvious and that was part of what made it so fun. The various clans also reminded me of some of the Mytho/Historical films I’ve seen come out of Hong Kong. Even the naming patterns of the characters reflect that too. There is also a comic book element to the characters, abilities, and naming patterns. The style shows just how much RZA was influenced by Tarantino. On the whole, I found the movie to be very enjoyable. A better actor for RZA’s role would have nudge the movie’s grade a bit higher. Everyone else was spot on for the type of character they were playing. Well, Bronze Body could have been a bit better too.

    • Well put. I added all of that up for my own grade and came up with about a B-. Enjoyable, but with multiple flaws (including RZA in the lead)

      Its pretty unmistakeable though how much he loves the genre. And to a large extent, that’s infectious here. :D

  5. Pingback: LAMBScores: Arcade Gaming with A Kung-Fu Denzel | The Large Association of Movie Blogs

  6. I appreciate RZA’s try and if I hadn’t seen the anime that influenced this film (Afro Samurai and Samurai Champloo) I would have enjoyed it more. It is fun BUT I just cant help but see this movie as a rip-off. Funnily enough RZA did the soundtrack for Afro Samurai. :)

    • Huh. I’ve seen SOME Afro Samurai… I have the fist set on Blu but didnt finish it. Thus never made the association.

      So I wound up having fun with it. I mean, it’s not the world’s greatest movie or anything, but I enjoyed it. :)

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