Saturday, March 25, 2017

Movie #397: The Man with the Iron Fists

The Man with the Iron Fists is martial-arts action movie starring (and directed by) RZA, with Russel Crowe, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, Rick Yune, Dave Bautisa, Jamie Chung, and Daniel Wu.

In ancient China, the Blacksmith (RZA) works in Jungle City, a crime-ridden district. He mostly makes weapons for the various clans that fight it out all kung-fu style there. In the meanwhile, he saves up money to buy his lover, Lady Silk (Chung) out from her contract to Madame Blossom (Liu), the owner of the local brothel.

Yeah, strap in. It gets worse.

A shipment of gold is coming through town, and the imperial forces of planet Spaceball have contracted with the Lion Clan to protect, but the second-in-command, Silver Lion (Mann) betrays his master Gold Lion (Kuan Tai Chen) and steals it. Word of this reaches Gold Lion's son, Zen Yi, the X-Blade (Yune, and no, I'm not making that name up), and he returns to Jungle City to avenge his father.

And into all this is Jack Knife (Crowe), a British agent and representative of the emperor, checking on the gold. The Lion Clan brings in Brass Body (Bautisa), a magical fighter-dude who can literally become living brass, and everyone fights in magical kung-fu glory. Eventually the bad guys chop off the Blacksmith's arms, but with the others' help he forges the titular iron fists, using his chi or some shit to manipulate them like normal hands.

So, I'm gonna own it right away: This movie is problematic as shit in places. It treats women terribly; sure, the ladies under Blossom's command are kind of badass, but they wind up getting killed anyway, including Lady Silk. Actually, she gets raped (by Brass Body) and killed (by Brass Body), but does wind up injuring him enough that the Blacksmith can beat him. Yeah, that's not really good enough (Blossom dies, too, for what it's worth).

The other overriding issue is that RZA can't act his way out of a wet paper bag. He's flat as old cardboard, and his narration, while it has some good lines ("these motherfuckers had a Gatling gun, and more bullets than China has rice") is so mumbly and uninspired that it kind of detracts from the movie.

But for all that? I love this movie. I have no idea if RZA ever played Feng Shui, but it sure feels like he did. It's over the top and utterly ridiculous, set to a soundtrack of Wu Tang and associated acts, and includes some really fun fight choreography. Russel Crowe is especially fun to watch, playing Jack Knife with drugged-out, oversexed bliss.

I haven't yet been brave enough to check out the sequel, which I'm reliably informed was pretty terrible, but if you can look past the acting and some of the uncomfortable bits of the script, check this out.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Mary Poppins