Produced (not directed or written) by Quentin Tarantino (so you know it's going to be bad) "The Man with the Iron Fists", Wu Tang Clan member RZA's first try behind the camera, doesn't disappoint as far as "bad" movies go. This is truly an exercise in visual and structural ineptitude, which could only be the work of an amateur filmmaker. RZA, starring alongside an obese Russell Crowe and Cung Le (which should tell you all you need to know) in this rather poor grindhouse homage to old Kung Fu movies, narrates the simplistic story of a black blacksmith (RZA) who must protect his village from a deadly band of assassins. But even this story takes a hit, as it becomes overcomplicated by RZA's dreadful storytelling abilities. This mess of a film also stars Lucy Liu, who is by far the most tolerable character, playing the Madam of the town brothel. But not even Liu playing a watered down version of her character in "Kill Bill: Vol: 1" or a halfway decent final battle sequence can conceal the amount of problems that essentially cut "The Man with the Iron Fists" off at the wrists. Truthfully, I haven't wanted to like a movie this much and been so very disappointed by the result since "Battle LA".
Why is this movie so bad? Well, the fact that the entire movie distractingly switches back and forth from English to Mandarin (I am only speculating) for reasons unexplained to the viewer, is the first of many head shakingly dreadful decisions made by RZA. But for a more in-depth breakdown, the following is a very brief (that is, if you enjoy long rants) analysis of RZA's first film:
RZA is no writer: While the classic Martial Arts film concept itself is interesting, the script co-written by RZA himself, as well as Eli Roth (Tarantino's protégé) is rather weak. Surprisingly RZA (only one of the best DJ's/lyricist alive) can't write dialogue to save his life. And while Roth has never been a master of the spoken word himself, it becomes all too obvious between which lines of dialogue RZA has written and which are insertions from Roth, when a character goes on a stiff 5 minute rant that ends with a rather Tarantino-esque one-liner. As for the story itself, the problem lies in that it becomes overly cramped with stupid subplots. Every time the story begins to head in a finite direction, RZA does his damnedest to add another idiotic twist, or have the character cease all action in order to spout out one more bit of needless exposition, complicating matters for an audience that was barely on board to begin with.
RZA is no director: Sometimes a filmmaker can get away with gratuitous violence because it is intricate to the story (or sometimes simply on pedigree alone). But when your story hangs on by a thread and your directing is suspect, the sporadic occurrence of intense brutality doesn't so much come off as shocking, as much as it adds to the clunkiness of the film. Now, RZA does use some stylized camera techniques that obtain a semblance of that cool-factor he is looking for, but yet again, problems arise when he uses them in excess.
RZA is no actor: Maybe the least important aspect of a grindhouse film like this is the acting, although there is something to be said for a self controlled actor who knows how to overact. In saying that, every scene with RZA, is almost comically stunted by his inability to hold his own around A and B-list actors and actresses. His own character must run the gambit of emotions here, from anger, to sorrow, to a man who is in severe anguish. So, if anything, his own script asks too much of him.
Something good: If you try hard enough, you can probably find something good to say about any movie
well, maybe except for "Grown Ups". In the case of "The Man with the Iron Fists"
the soundtrack is good (although, at times ridiculously misused) but this is to be expected since music is what RZA does (NOT DIRECTING). Final Thought: I do realize the intention of a film like "The Man with the Iron Fists" is to champion a hardy slathering of over-the-topness, but that doesn't change the fact that this is quietly one of the worst directed films of the year. At times it's so bad that one would wonder how Quentin Tarantino thought it was a good idea to financially back this project at all. But on the other hand, it wouldn't shock me if it were to come to light that Tarantino had given RZA the money, called up a few of his actor buddies, and told Eli Roth to make his script readable, as a repayment for RZA's work on the Kill Bill soundtracks.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
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