Rapper turned filmmaker RZA bludgeons onto the filmmaking scene with The Man With the Iron Fists (TMWTIF); a love letter to Hong Kong action/fable cinema under the wing of filmmaker/producer, Eli Roth & indi-cinema God, Quentin Tarantino (QT). The debut filmmaker shows great aptitude, theatricality and fun but wrestles with the ‘genromage’ (Genre Homage) issues of his Grindhouse compatriots before him.
It’s feudal China and a caravan (protected by the Geminis) transporting the Governor’s gold cross-country has to pass through the lawless Jungle Village and contend with the descending warring clans (Lions, Wolves, the Brass man and Rogue British soldier Mr Jack “Knife” [Russell Crowe]). The town’s blacksmith (RZA) is building the tools for battle and gets dragged into the conflict.
RZA spent a significant amount of time alongside QT on the set of Kill Bill, and it shows. RZA whips the camera around and compliments accomplished sweeping and colourful visuals with a rap soundtrack that gives some of the fight scenes a film clip quality. RZA’s blacksmith character/narrator provides a unique Blaxploitation flavour to the genre. It is hilarious hearing lines like “me and my girl gotta get the fuck outta dodge” in the middle of a kung fu film. TMWTIF shines and generates laughs most in the moments it totally departs from the structure. RZA’s 30 Rock-esque flash back explaining how he got to China is ingenious. However, the story doesn’t inspire emotional investment. RZA clearly loves and understands the 60s Hong Kong Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films like The One-Armed Swordsman and The Invincible Fist however, the story is really just a foundation for those stylistic frivolities.
Crowe is hilariously straight-faced in his portrayal of Mr ‘Jack’ Knife – the lecherous, sex fiend rogue soldier that’s as apt spilling blood as he is pleasing a bevy of whores. Lucy Liu, Gordon Liu and Pam Grier are on board to support the cause but it’s Dave Bautista’s Bras Body, Rick Yune’s Zen Yi, UFC fighter Cung Le’s Bronze Lion and Byron Mann’s ‘Asian Rick James’ Silver Lion that dish out their persona specific carnage in the insane and bloody fight scenes.
The Man with the Iron Fists is fun as hell and it knows what it is. RZA’s Blaxploitation, Kung Fu Remix debut sounds and looks stellar.
Directed by: RZA
Written by: RZA and Eli Roth
Starring: Russell Crowe, RZA, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Cung Le