The Man with the Iron Fists

Lucy Liu, the RZA, Russell Crowe, and lots of blood.

The Man with the Iron Fists probably comes as close as possible to replicating one of the old-school Chinese kung-fu movies that director Robert Diggs loved as a kid. Diggs grew up to become the RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, the celebrated rap collective, whose name was itself derived from one of those old chop-socky flicks. He also became an actor, and has now directed his first film, scripted in collaboration with his pal Eli Roth, creator of the Hostel movies, among many other genre delights. The resulting picture, shot in China, is packed with bloody action and magical implausibilities—which is to say, it drips authenticity.

RZA plays a blacksmith in a shabby Chinese village. This requires some explanation, and in a flashback we learn that he's actually a freed slave who set out from the States aboard a ship (called the Destiny) that foundered off the Chinese coast. He was discovered on the shore by a group of Buddhist monks, who took him in and schooled him in the ways of Chi, a system of key body points that will later prove useful.

Now established as a blacksmith, he crafts formidable weapons for local bad guys in order to save up enough money to liberate his girlfriend, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), from her demeaning labors as a prostitute in the local Pink Blossom bordello, which is run by the beautiful and crafty Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu).

Mad complications accumulate. A shipment of government gold that's due to pass through the village draws the interest of various outlaw gangs, among them the cannibalistic Wolf Clan, whose members traipse about with the heads of dead wolves affixed to their noggins, and an interloping group called the Lion Clan, led by one Silver Lion (Byron Mann). Opposing them is a virtuous warrior named Zen Yi (Rick Yune) and a "vacationing" Brit called Jack Knife ("You can call me Jack"), who's played by Russell Crowe.

This also requires some explanation. Jack is a mercenary who wandered into China and stayed. His weapon of choice is a revolver with whirling knives attached. He spouts poetry; sometimes disguises himself in a coolie hat (you really have to see Russell Crowe in a coolie hat); and, as we witness in a bordello scene, boasts unexpected skills both cunnilingual and dildo-related. (You really have to see this, too.)

This narrative foundation undergirds the movie's main draw, which is way-over-the-top action—flying chunks of flesh, endless geysers of blood, and much high-flying wire work. Casual viewers may be put off by close-ups of a man's arms being hacked down to stumps, but kung-fu adepts will surely be warmed by the classical familiarity of it all (and by the depredations inflicted by Brass Body, a towering brute, played by pro wrestler David Bautista, who can turn himself into metal whenever an assault impends).

The movie isn't much more than a lovingly done tribute to the kung-fu form—you can imagine the spirits of the Shaw brothers and other Hong Kong chop-socky specialists hovering appreciatively over the proceedings. And while RZA isn't really a lively enough actor to fully animate his lead character, Crowe and Liu and the amusingly bouffant-haired Byron Mann take up a lot of slack. In any event, the target audience for this film, tipped off by the trailer, will know who they are.  

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  • John||

    Peter: Did you ever watch Kung Fu?

    JOANNA
    I love Kung Fu...

    PETER
    Channel 39.

    JOANNA
    Totally...

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Turn to channel 9 dude

  • ||

    I don't know, man. I just get that feeling lookin' at her like she's the type of chick that just...

  • mr simple||

    If what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous.

  • ||

    It'll be like the Juggalos all over again....

  • ||

    It's between this and Wreck It Ralph for me this weekend. Ah hell, I'll probably just end up getting an 18 pack of cheap beer and tailgating at my college's homecoming game.

  • ||

    Is that like the opposite of Bob the Builder?

  • ||

    I think it's like Donkey Kong, but having a black lead character would have been racist.

  • Pro Libertate||

    For some reason only a team of psychiatrists could fathom, I always hear "Zod the Builder" when the kids are watching it and the theme song comes on. In Terence Stamp's voice.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    You forgot to mention RZA's establishment of "Wu Tang Financial" among his many, many accomplishments.

    "You got to DIVERSIFY, bitches.....Old Dirty Bastard say hi..."

  • ||

    The funniest part about that skit? The old actress trying to get her "W" up and getting edged out of the shot at the end by another extra

    http://www.comedycentral.com/v.....-financial

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    I'm hardly a foreign film snob, but if I want Asian action I'll just see The Raid: Redemption again instead of The Man with the Iron Fists. Even if "Quentin Tarantino presents" the latter........fuck it, I didn't think either Kill Bill movie was that great.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Tarantino is grossly overrated, though I don't despise his work like that of some other successful directors these days.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Yeah, I don't think I've truly enjoyed anything he's done since Pulp Fiction.

    Shit, I've been a "subtitled movies are better" snob and a "his earlier work was better" snob in the same thread. I'll quit now before I hit the douche trifecta by excessively praising The Wire.

  • Killazontherun||

    I don't know who originally thought the phony as shit in this context word 'collective' looks cooler than the tried and true word 'group' but years from now you will be kicking yourself in the head from the embarrassment of indulging that conceptual fart blossom. Show some self respect, Loder.

  • ||

    The Man with the Iron Fists
    Lucy Liu, the RZA, Russell Crowe, and lots of blood.
    Kurt Loder | November 2, 2012


    You had me at Lucy Liu and the RZA.
    *adds to Netflix queue*

  • pmains||

    Most Tarantino stuff isn't on Netflix Instant. Jackie Brown is, and I think that's it ... unless you're in Mexico. Then Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction (and I think others, but not Reservoir Dogs) are available to stream.

    Lesson: spoof your location to get the most out of Netflix.

  • pmains||

    Also, Mexican TV shows can be streamed in Mexico, but not the US. Why? Do they think Americans are waiting for the DVD box sets of La Familia P. Luche, but won't pony up if it's streamable?

  • ||

    I don't do Netflix streaming anymore, just Blu Rays for me. I'm kind of picky about video/audio quality.

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  • attractions guide||

    The Man with the Iron Fists is so good, and i love Chinese kung-fu movies, they are so exciting

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