Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Being as how I have quite a few of the 'Wu-Tang Clan Presents…' kung fu series of films in my private collection, being as how I was a fan of the music of the Wu-Tang, being as how I am a fan of kung fu movies in general, not to mention that I am a genuine Master of the Flying Guillotine which we won't get into right now… RZA's directorial debut of 'The Man with the Iron Fists' was pretty much a no brainer here at the FCU offices.  Did 'The Man with the Iron Fists' meet expectations?  Well… not really, but we'll discuss it.

The Blacksmith, as played by RZA, narrates the goings on in his little Chinese enclave known as Jungle City.  Jungle City probably isn't the best place to raise a family considering there are constant warring clans running through the streets killing each other and the number one industry, as far as I can see, is the brothel run by the lovely Madam Blossom (Lucy Lui).  The Blacksmith is a specialist at making weapons, and he has been making some particularly lethal weapons for the various clans, which he is not proud of, but he needs the money so that he can purchase the freedom of his lady love Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) from the house of Blossom.  While we here at the FCU decry the exploitation of women through the criminal industry of prostitution, we can clearly see why the House of Blossom would be a primary destination of interest when passing through Jungle City.

Regardless, as bad as things are in Jungle City, it's about to get a whole lot worse.  The problem is the fiercest clan in Jungle City, the Lion Clan, has staged an in-house coup as led by the scurrilous Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and his right hand Bronze Lion
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(Cung Le) dispatching their leader Gold Lion, with the plan to steal a boatload of the emperor's bullion.  The problem with this plan of theirs would be Gold Lion's son Zen Yi (Rick Yune), a master of blades who will no doubt be looking for revenge.  Silver Lion is fully aware of this and as such has contracted the unforgiving hired killer Brass Body (Dave Bautista) to handle his light work.  Zen Yi believes himself to be a badass.  Zen Yi, meet Brass Body.  Illusion of badassery dispersed.

Also in Jungle City at this time is magical knife wielding Englishman Jack the Knife, as played by Russell Crowe who we gotta say is looking a lot like John Goodman these days.  I'm sure the extra pounds are just to add authenticity to the role, you know how actors are.  Why is this whore-mongering, very dangerous Englishman in Jungle City right now?  We're not going to spoil it for you.

Unfortunately the Blacksmith has found himself caught up in this mess in the worst way, finding himself on the bad side of Silver Lion which we cannot see ending well.  Nonetheless, with the emperor's gold in the balance, the life of Lady Silk and Jungle City as a whole is in danger unless a trio of outnumbered heroes, which includes the soon to be born Man with the Iron Fists, can succeed in stopping the force known as the Lion Clan, or all will be lost.  Kung fu action, Black Widows and of a course a dude with flailing white hair will ensue, en masse. 

Please recognize that if there was ever a modern love sonnet paid to classic Kung-Fu movies, it is RZA's 'The Man with Iron Fists'.  I imagine it would be difficult for anybody who is a long time fan of kung fu flicks to watch 'The Man with the Iron Fists' and not smile early and often at the nods given to the genre.  The Gemini twins?  Come on now.  It is RZA's clear love of the genre which makes this movie borderline awesome, but like the source material it is sprung from, 'The Man with the Iron Fists' is also borderline a complete mess. 

I mean I get that kung fu movies in general have a jumbled up, fractured, nonsensical storyline, but I'm thinking that's one avenue where RZA and his co-writer Eli Roth might've been able to improve upon.  No need to be that damned authentic.  I also hear that the original cut of the movie is four plus hours long, so that would go a long way to explain the jumbled nature of the storyline, but to that end I do believe I'd rather view a messed up narrative than watch a four hour kung fu movie. 

But my main issue with 'The Man with the Iron Fists', which should've been its saving grace, was the fight scenes.  I could tell that the Cory Yuen choreographed fight scenes were probably sweet, and in some of them were… kind of… but the editing of the majority of these sequences was so choppy and jumbled and clumsy that it was hard to find a groove to truly enjoy what I'm certain would've been some awesome action sequences if they were just assembled a little better. 

The casting and characters… with the probable exception of RZA… sorry… was just about perfect.  We've been a fan Byron Mann ever since we saw him 'Crying Freeman' almost twenty years ago and he has rarely let us down and his Silver Lion with his crazy hair and exorbitant use of eyeliner was right on point.  Lucy Lui as the madam and the captain of the Black Widow death squad was awesome, finally somebody found the proper way to use Dave Bautista in a movie and we enjoyed watching Russell Crowe in the movie almost as much as Russell enjoys Twinkies.    I mean everybody in this movie was just about perfect.  Except for maybe RZA.  Sorry.

What I'm saying is I really wanted to… not like 'The Man with the Iron Fists'… but love 'The Man with the Iron Fists'.  The fact is I didn't love it, and ultimately I barely liked it due to its numerous flaws.  This made it a disappointment which is probably more my fault for heaving unreachable expectations on this movie and a first time film director, but there is fun to be had here.
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