Kung Fu. Hip hop. Tarantino. RZA. What could go wrong?
Last weekend I went to see RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists. The premise of the film is a bit hazy. There’s several plotlines. Some merge themselves well, others seem out of place and awkwardly executed. Unfortunately the ones that don’t work turn out to be the main characters.
The story begins with gold being set across the town of Jungle Village (someone tell me I got the name wrong, that can’t really be the name). The Clan of the Lions, which runs the town has recently lost their leader, Gold Lion, who has not-so-secretly being murdered by Silver Lion (Byron Mann) to take his place. Bronze Lion (Cung Le) is involved as well. They want the gold and are planning to intercept the caravan. As far as plots go, not original but still Byron Mann was one of the engaging characters in the film. He looks and acts like David Bowie more and more as the movie progresses, but somehow it works.
Gold Lion’s son, Zen Yi the X-Blade (Rick Yune) has learned of the murder and betrayal of his father. He’s about to get married in a scene that plays like so many other revenge plots. He loves his bride but he must avenge his father first. That involves donning a very deadly spike-thrusting armor added to his already amazing martial arts skill, making him almost invincible. Almost. Rick Yune and Cung Le will be the ones on a fight scene, although the spike armor is a bit of an overkill – cool but too much gadgetry for a guy who’s good without it. I guess RZA felt that his character needed a gimmick. Zen Yi eventually will run into his own achilles’ heel but let’s not get to that yet.
The best character to watch is Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) who owns the Pink Blossom brothel. I must confess, I was rooting for her at some point. She seems to cooperate fully with everyone, specially Silver Lion, until she eventually makes her play. I’m not going to spoil it for you, mainly because you’ll see it coming. Otherwise the brothel ends up to be grand central station for everyone and everything.
This includes Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) who, after a very bloody introduction to his knife-gun, becomes a permanent fixture of the place bedding several women at once. Get used to him, he turns out to be a main character eventually. He looks positively uninterested and uninteresting – and he’s not the only character that does that.
Also in the background, and only appearing from time to time is the Blacksmith, Thaddeus (RZA) speaking from the shadows and only appearing to bed his supposed love, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung). I’ve never seen more dead chemistry between two people than these two, and their individual performances don’t help either. You’d think Blacksmith at least would display some Kung Fu prowess at some point. RZA apparently trained in Hung Ga over two months for his role. If he ever does do martial arts, someone forgot to put that on the film or it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene. His presence is very subdued even when he finally emerges as the hero.
His counterpart will be the completely invulnerable Brass Body (Batista) who can change his body to metal. Being what he is, he’s invulnerable to Zen Yi’s X-Blade armor, and will eventually run head on into the Blacksmith.
I was a lot more interested in Zen Yi’s final battle with Silver Lion. Luckily, the X-Blade does recover and somehow regains his armor (or it’s a new one) showing off in one very cinematographic scene in which blood flows from all his opponents at once. Finally, RZA does remember to put Zen Yi and Silver Lion’s fight in the film and we even get a room of mirrors reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon.
Remarkable are also the fights between the Lion Clan and the protectors of the gold, the Geminis played by Andrew Lin and Grace Huang, who really outshine the protagonists by a mile. There’s an appearance by Daniel Wu as Poison Dagger – but he’s given nobody to fight except Russell Crowe’s Jack Knife character… making it the lamest fight ever.
Disappointed as I was, I have to say that I can’t quite point my finger at what went wrong. The movie plays a lot like a tribute to Kung Fu movies and perhaps more of a comic adaptation or a music video made within the genre than a full length film. It’s somewhat entertaining for some scenes and drags on for others. In short, it does make for a cool trailer, but I think it falls short of its intended mark. Can’t really recommend it.
That will do for now.