It was inevitable that RZA — the frontman of Kung Fu-inspired Hip-Hop group The Wu-Tang Clan — would make his own martial arts movie at some point in this career. Though despite a Quentin Tarantino endorsement and a pretty tempting trailer, it has to be said The Man With The Iron Fists is a real mess of a movie and doesn’t do the man any favours.
Fans of ’70s martial arts flicks and Hip-Hop music will be drawn to this movie (just as I was), and will most likely find themselves incredibly disappointed. Directed, written and starring the Wu’s frontman, TMWTIF has plenty of homages to the most popular flicks (the most obvious being Enter The Dragon), but offers very little in terms of memorable sequences.
RZA’s character is a blacksmith, who eventually becomes “The man with the iron fists”, but his “journey” is barely touched upon in the form of a plot. No one particularly cares about a plot in movies like this (I’m not one to usually make a big deal about it anyway), but the character motivations and various conflicts are all cobbled together incredibly amateurishly that there’s seemingly very little to be impressed by.
Confusingly, the main antagonist is this gold-goblin-type henchman (played by ex-WWE’s star Dave Bautista), whose weird “form” is never really explained. When the inevitable showdown between the two opposites comes around, the whole attempt to depict a heated confrontation and the blacksmith’s difficult struggle ultimately fails.
As well as the film’s writing, the main problem is the tone, which is ridiculously uneven. The film incorporates wannabe-serious moments involving RZA’s character, though with plenty of over-the-top fight scenes that just don’t gel together very well. RZA, though admittedly a decent actor, is not a great director from the evidence here; and with his sloppy direction and all-too-subdued protagonist, the experience is far from enjoyable.
The film doesn’t deserve props in the “so bad it’s good” sense, either. There’s far too much wire work and digital manipulation to give the impression that RZA is trying to replicate Quentin Tarantino and other peoples’ styles rather than put his own stamp onto things. TMWTIF seems to get tangled up in its own aspirations, and will struggle to hold the viewer’s interest as a result.
There’s plenty of big names on board, and while Crowe is particularly likeable for his playfulness as the “Jack Knife” character, many of them fail to make an impact. Rick Yunn (who played “Zao” in The World Is Not Enough) is underwhelming as “X-Blade”; likewise is mixed martial artist Cung Le asone of the members of the “Lion Clan”; and I am yet to see a performance from Lucy Liu that doesn’t irritate the hell out of me.
The Man With The Iron Fists is a bad movie, and not a particularly entertaining one. On the plus side, the soundtrack is pretty good, featuring contributions from Pharoah Monch and M.O.P., and a razor-sharp Wu-Tang/Kool G Rap collabo that reminds me of the good, old days in Hip-Hop.