Here I am, struggling to write about RZA’s would-be martial arts epic when the question arises in my dormant mind, why didn’t I watch a better film? Silver Linings Playbook, and Moonrise Kingdom are films I still haven’t seen from last year, which look absolutely fantastic, and I’m stuck writing about this piece of drollery. Directed by Wu-Tang Clan headsman and producer RZA, Written by Eli Roth (ALARM BELLS, ALARM BELLS..) with that ever meaningless endorsement ‘Presented by Quentin Tarantino’. The film is an homage film to the martial arts epic and very much mimics the general idea, but with a budget. I think as a general overstatement the charm and style of a martial arts epic is made by it’s low-budget, incredibly bad dubbing and grainy super-film quality. In addition it made the very over-ambitious mistake of having an ensemble cast, instead of one leading man, so you end up with a very watery toned-down narrative that doesn’t really follow a particular person or strand.
The film stars RZA himself as the title referencing ‘Man with Iron Fists’, an emancipated slave (In china? who knows?) turned blacksmith has his arms cut off by an evil corrupt gang known as ‘the lions’ who recently mutinied under their former heroic leader. As a result he grafts himself iron hands which he controls with a thorough understanding of Chi, and Chakra. Eli and RZA originally shot about 4 hours of footage, when the studio and producers told them they had to adapt to a 1:30 structure. RZA wanted to push the format into two films (dear god!), and considered abandoning the project as Eli Roth persuaded him otherwise. You can tell the film is heavily cut as the film focuses quite heavily in it’s supporting characters who have no business being in the majority of the screen time (as they can act) where as, title character…Blacksmith Guy? (Sure) barely has any lines or character development. This is probably the editing team doing the best of a bad job because RZA cannot even vaguely act.
However, regardless of the prying eyes and harsh restrictions of a studio and producers, I can’t really pretend The Man with the Iron Fists was ever going to be vaguely paletteable as a film. Featuring supporting roles by Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, they do their very best to carry the film’s narrative structure not that there ever was one. Russell Crowe plays the British…former army..? I don’t even know. Some guy. He’s on vacation. Or something. Anyway, his name is Jack Knife. Because he’s jack, and he has a knife. Lucy Liu is a whorehouse owner, who are also trained assassins. The action scenes are somewhere between good, and over the top. It’s set pieces are a bit too fancy and just look ridiculous as opposed to cool. Particularly the whole Yin-Yang blade, man and wife thing they had going. Also where’s the consistency? Warriors who can fend off a ridiculous amount of soldiers at once, but a dart kills them. Why are darts so overpowered!? I just don’t even..
The film has a mix of orchestral score, and soundtrack written by RZA. Along with the fairly clashing sounds and the dreadful slow-mo effects and horribly recorded special effects sounds it’s pretty garbled. The whole thing is atonal, the hip-hop simply doesn’t go with the style of film, and chimes in at random moments. It needed one or the other really, not both. And the sound effect noises, are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Horrible clangs, and clacks that overwhelm the visuals and are a horrible mar to the ears.
The film is also very crude and explicit in regard to sexuality, and I never want to see Russell Crowe in a hotel room with three oriental hookers ever again. Did I mention the whorehouse is called ‘Pink Blossom’?. Sigh. Just no. That’s it for this time, I have nothing more to say about this. It’s pretty shit, don’t watch it, and it has little redeeming features. I guess you could say RZA shows a clear understanding of the conventions and codes of the martial arts film, just no idea how to plot-structure, write dialogue, and such. Although that was Eli Roth’s job, why am I not at all surprised. Guh. Until tomorrow, when I review A BETTER FILM. Ta da for now, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views