MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, THE
In a 19th century Chinese village, escaped slave (RZA) hopes to rescue his girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) from the brothel run by Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu). But his plans are interrupted when a gang turns up led by crime lord Bronze Lion (Cung Le) and his henchman (David Bautista) looking for secret treasure hidden in the village - as well as Lady Silk. But help arrives in the shape of knife thrower Jackknife (Russell Crowe) and the mercenary Zen Yi The X Blade (Rick Yune).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Under the influence of Quentin Tarantino, RZA has given us a B movie that mashes martial arts with rap, 19th century period with 21st century street jive and treasure hunt with dynastic feud. Saturated in both colour and blood, TMWTIF is also part horror movie in which heads roll ... as do eyeballs. The title refers to yet another bloody episode which results in a man having iron not just fists but forearms.
Am I giving too much away? I doubt it; there is so much more, including a set of knives, wielded with decadent and laid back frenzy - if you can imagine such a thing - by Russell Crowe. His "call me Jack" knife man plays a significant role in the mayhem.
RZA is the titular hero and his characteristic (but unclear) voice provides the narration as well, as he forges his iron weapons for clients - and eventually himself.
Slo-mo and blood fountains, choreographed and synchronised fight scenes inside and outside the brothel (where much of the action takes place) are all treated with genre-loving enthusiasm. Yes, that's the word that best describes this movie, enthusiasm; it overtakes everything else. Mangled and messy yet sometimes beautiful (as in the 'black widows' fight scene, with women in black using long scarves as weapons, spider web like) the film seems more like an homage to grind house martial arts, with a rap sensibility; a kind of 'Kung fuk you' movie.
Under these circumstances, only a few performances get a chance to be actually seen; Crowe's is one, and his bulked up frame and face fill his scenes, from the raunchy to the rowdy. Rick Yune is effective, too, while David Bautista is an impressive hulk with the ability to turn himself into bronze at will in a fight. That's the kind of film this is.
Review by Louise Keller:
Revenge, redemption and brotherhood are the themes of this mash-up martial arts spectacular whose elements range from haphazard and confusing to visually thrilling. In his audacious writing and directing debut, rapper RZA plays a forger of weapons, whose voice-over narration might be undecipherable and its eclectic larger-than-life characters confusing, but the film has a pulse. It's as though RZA's enthusiasm for his project is such that he wanted to throw everything into it - not quite the kitchen sink, but elements including exotic knives, fountains of blood, sex slaves and Russell Crowe as an Englishman with a lusty appetite. It's a whirlwind of chaos with graphic violence, ambitious choreography and a story that eventually finds its mark.
It takes a while to understand where all the characters fit in, but the thrust of the story, set in 19th Century China, involves Blacksmith (RZA), who wants to get away with his girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), who works for the controlling Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) in the local brothel. There are two nasty clans whose weaponry comprises all different types of knives that poke out of footwear and the impressive suit of knives comprises a peacock array of metal down its arms. It's curious to see Russell Crowe in this scenario, hamming it up as an Englishman, who is as imaginative with his sex play-things as he is with his killing. Then there is Rick Yune as Zen Yi, the X-Blade mercenary, who wants to avenge his father with blades created by the chi-controlling Blacksmith.
The violence is full on and be prepared for major body-part chopping and waterfalls of blood. Massive heavyweight champion Dave Bautista is a force to be reckoned with as Brass Body, who can turn his tattooed body to indestructible brass - a bit like the Incredible Hulk, except that he is gold, not green. The scene when Lady Silk is used as a weapon is striking and the extraordinary sequence in The Pink Blossom brothel, when Madam Blossom lets her girls loose on the tough guys, with the words 'power is a fickle mistress' is dramatic, visual cinema. The use of split screens in the final reel is effective.
The Man with the Iron Fists is wild and crazy with passages that are yawn worthy and others that make you sit up and take notice.
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MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, THE (MA15+)
(US/Hong Kong, 2012)
CAST: Russell Crowe, RZA, Rick Yune, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu
PRODUCER: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Eli Roth
SCRIPT: RZA, Eli Roth
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chi Ying Chan
EDITOR: Joe D'Augustine
MUSIC: Howard Drossin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Drew Boughton
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 6, 2012