Title: The Man with the Iron Fists
Give us a story. Or, just give us stylish bloody action. Don’t try to play somewhere in the middle; especially when you’re working with an over-the-top martial arts driven script that is co-written by Eli Roth and “presented” by Quentin Tarantino.
But that’s what The Man with the Iron Fists did. Why? Well, that was the respective vision of the other co-writer and flick’s director, RZA (Wu-Tang Clan rap group).
Making his feature length directorial debut, one can see RZA has some unique ideas (ex. Hip-hop soundtrack in a period piece), that in time, just need cultivation; which will come with more practice. The action is thoughtful, fun, and cheesy horror movie graphic. Yet they lose momentum by trying to forge a connection to the eclectic cast of characters. Now while most audiences would want that, there is a time and place to do so. Even if our storytellers successfully pulled it off from a mechanical standpoint, it still could drag this down. And sticking with mechanics, the only area that RZA seems to falter in is during the most important sequences: Climax and ending.
It’s all about a bunch of clans, in what appears to be 19th century China, battling it out over some ancient gold. The one common bond that all of the deadly parties have, aside from wanting the gold of course, is they attain their specialized weapons from a local blacksmith (RZA). The weapons produced by the blacksmith are one of a kind, and have been known to turn the tide in many battles for those that wield his unorthodox work.
The build-up is satisfactory and gets the viewer where they need to be for the grand finale. But then all of a sudden, it seems as if everyone involved behind-the-lens over-thinks how to wrap this up, and indirectly, executes deathblows into the pacing “body.” It almost felt as if they were working with time constraints (or most likely, were pushing its monetary production arsenal) despite only clocking in at 96 minutes.
With that being said, the performances are all engaging and the personas created by both the filmmakers and the cast keep you invested in a standard canvas, painted with abstract color and design.
There’s a high bloody body count, a variety of warriors, along with engrossing camera work for the majority of the journey – which mainly takes place in a small rural town and brothel (under the ownership of Lucy Liu). Russell Crowe (think Sean Connery’s role from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and former WWE/UFC fighter Dave Bautista (X-Men character) do some nice work. RZA goes triple-threat and plays a key character in the flick, while also intermittently narrating the story. And then there’s a host of talented Asian actors (known and unknown) performing an array of well-choreographed fight sequences with every weapon imaginable – and this can heal the trauma of the jerky delivery and vague story/character elaboration.