I consider myself a pretty diehard fan of Kung Fu films. I’ve been watching the greatest films of the genre as far back as I can remember. I can recall my father taking me to the Combat Zone in Boston to the Publix theater to see Bruce Lee movies. In fact, I saw Game Of Death on the big screen and can clearly remember that viewing. I love all martial arts films, but there’s something about the Shaw Bros. brand of films that is just utterly amazing to me. This love of their films, whether it be the off the wall english dubs or the outrageous techniques they used, also drew me to the Wutang Clan. RZA, the leader and producer of the group, would inject samples from old martial arts films into his tracks. He loved using Shaw Bros. films and I could pick out which movies his ques were coming from. I had high hopes for The Man With The Iron Fists, but kept my expectations low.
The story revolves around greed, treachery and a large shipment of gold. Everyone wants a piece of the action and is willing to do anything to get it. RZA plays a blacksmith who’s caught up in the middle of the chaos. He has to provide weapons to all the warlords, good and bad, who are after the gold. His goal is to save up enough money to buy a whore, whom which he’s fallen in love with, from the local brothel that’s run by Lucy’s Luis character, Madam Blossom. Russell Crowe plays the enigmatic Jack Knife, who wields a knife with a gun handle. Other people rounding out the cast are Cung Le, Rick Yun and Batista. I was VERY happy to see Chia Hui Liu(Gordon Liu) cast in the film and I know RZA must have been in heaven working with him.
The movie had a simple, yet familiar story that we’ve seen from many old school martial arts films. It had GREAT characters, set design and costumes. The fight choreography was done by Corey Yuen. I like a lot of his work but sometimes he tries to do too much with wire work. If the wire work is good, it looks real. If not, it looks like wires are being used and it totally takes you out of the fantasy. In the case of this film, it was touch and go. What was more important to me was great fighting sequences.
There were a few big fight scenes in this film. I was most impressed with the Gemini fight at Dragon Inn and also Lucy Lui’s performance with Cung Le. The RZA is a martial artist but you wouldn’t know it after watching this film. His fight scene was horribly choreographed and edited. It went from bad puns to Dragon Ball Z. I was shaking my head in disgust at how it was handled.
I had very high expectations of what the soundtrack was going to offer, especially after hearing the Black Keys/RZA title cut for the film, The Baddest Man Alive. Unfortunately, with RZA acting and directing the film, it seemed like he didn’t have time to do a proper soundtrack like he did with Kill Bill. Instead he threw in tracks from some of his older albums and even opened up the movie with an ODB track. I didn’t feel that this was a smart choice. I would have rather had the end credit sequence as the opener with the Black Keys/RZA collab. It was much better suited for the film.
I applaud RZA’s effort in his directorial debut. Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe were awesome! I felt RZA just floated through the film and showed no emotion or acting abilities whatsoever. He was just…RZA. If it was me, I would have cast Michael Jai White to play the lead and put more energy into directing and scoring. Other than that, it was a fun little movie to watch, but I can’t honestly recommend it to anyone who takes this genre seriously. Should you see it? Yes! If not to fulfill your curiosity then to at least support RZA and his first film. However, I will not be purchasing this on Blu-Ray as I don’t think it’s a keeper. If I do, it will be for the end credits and key fight sequences.