77 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2012
The Man With the Iron Fists is a movie that was 'presented' (not produced) by Quentin Tarantino and directed by RZA. It centers on the story of a black blacksmith in China, who is trying to leave his hostile home village that's entrenched in between good ol' clan wars.
If you are seeking to be entertained, look no further. RZA blends the 'hip-hop samurai' type of music and feel -- prevalent in a lot of anime in recent years -- with the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-floating-around-style of fighting to create a high-flying (no pun intended) and adventurous parody of the genres with a Spaguetti Western flare. Needless to say, visually this movie is great in many respects.
However, beyond that, the movie suffers from more than a few noticeable stumbling points. The first being dialogue. Not only is the writing over-simplified, but the fact that some of the Chinese characters have Oriental-English accents while others speak perfectly clear English is something that will distract some viewers from the already simple plot. In addition, the main antagonist Silver Lion is portrayed as the funny one-liner villain, but there are times when his role feels overdone and out of place during the more serious scenes. Perhaps this harkens back to the older Kung-fu movie time other reviewers mentioned, but for me it was distracting.
Another caveat is the characters. They didn't feel very memorable, which is again probably due to the dialogue. The exception here is Russel Crowe's character, who exhibits wit, style, and the fact he sticks out like a sore thumb in a charming way. While I feel he did an extraordinary job in executing this role, I'm not exactly sure how his career will be affected in the long-run from this... You'll know what I mean.
Lastly, there were gaps in terms of the suspension of belief. While these types of movies are going to exhibit combat and visuals that are uncanny, a few of the developments toward the end, including one bad guy in particular, just felt like huge leaps of faith without any sort of explanation at all. I don't want to spoil anything, but again I think you'll know what I mean as you watch.
Now before I sound overly critical, let me tip my hat off to RZA. Not only did he direct the movie. He wrote it, helped compose the soundtrack, and starred as the blacksmith. This truly is RZA's movie in every sense of the phrase.
With so many responsibilities on one person, I can't help but critique this movie with admiration for it. It may not be on the Tarantino level, but if this is a beginning path for RZA I am excited to see what he comes up with next. Watch TMWTIF with the right expectations. If you're expecting Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, take it down a good notch. If you're expecting a parody of exaggerated, oriental combat and hip-hop anime with Spaghuetti Western tropes, you're in for an entertaining ride. It's worth a watch, even if it doesn't etch itself into your soul.
64 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
fantastic movie! i saw a lot of very unique and fun kung fu ideas that could only come from a true movie fan such as the rza! there is a brass statue of a man that is in many movies as a training dummy for qi (chi) blocking attacks. in this movie there is the statue and a man with skin that can become brass at will, it links up toward the end in such a cool way i was blown away. i imagine the rza back in the 70's thinking "what if someone had to fight the qi training statue? then they would be really f*&%ed!"
i could see where he deliberately paid homage to old kung fu films with some of the camera work, hair and acting styles, this kind of thing might look odd too someone who hasn't seen older kung fu movies as some of it seems corny or stilted (which is how those old movies are, something fans love!). but even so, they would get over it every time one of the AMAZING battles started.
at first the rap music came off as out of place. this is coming from a wu tang clan fan since the 36 chambers, and digital bullet is one of my favorite albums, but they're in ancient china and it's all hip hop style which doesn't really match up, but it grew on me very fast and by the end i was bobbing my head to the beats and enjoying them with the fight scenes. i grew up listening to wu tang, and rza always puts cuts from classic kung fu movies in his music. it's really cool hearing them and then, years later, stumbling over the same lines or music while watching the movie they're from without knowing it ahead of time. it's like: "why do i recognize this? i've never seen this movie... oh yeah! wu tang!" this was the exact opposite of that and it worked pretty well! i'm watching a kung fu movie and thinking "wait a minute, i know that song!"
and the story? phenomenal! really fun stuff going on and lots of surprises. russel crow is a riot in this movie. i was thoroughly entertained. i love buddhism, kung fu, and i dig the rza's music so the scene at the buddhist temple had me smiling from ear to ear.
really great film!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2014
Having watched several of the Shaw Brothers classics during my day, I can definitely see where Rza got his inspiration for this movie. The only problem is, he created a bad Kung Fu fantasy instead of putting out a memorable film. As many people have already described this film in detail, I'm not going to go into the plot. But suffice to say, Rap music doesn't belong in a 19th century period piece. It just doesn't. Rza would have been better off getting the film properly scored instead of creating a Rap soundtrack for the background music. It was very distracting.
Second, Rza choosing to have an African American character in the film, working as a blacksmith, might have worked. The only problem is, he chose to play the role himself. I have to agree with what others have already stated. Rza is not a very good actor in general. Add to that his street flare as he delivers his lines, and you have a mismatch character who doesn't really belong in the story. As a result, It was difficult to buy into his role. Had he picked a seasoned actor instead, it might have worked out. But as is, this film was likely a life long dream of his, so I guess he had to fit himself in somewhere. In retrospect, it was a mistake.
I commend him, however, for tapping into the Asian American acting pool for his lead roles. Lucy Lui did well enough, as did Ricky Yune. Jamie Chung also appears in the film as Rza's love interest, but she doesn't really get enough screen time to leave her mark. It seemed like she was mainly there to give Rza's character a connection to the film. Russell Crowe also appears and his acting is always good. But in this case, he seemed out of place. His character was odd and seemed to be written in just to have an excuse for more star power on the screen. At least, that's the way it seemed to me.
The martial arts were OK, but they don't hold a flame to the HK classics from the 70's and 80's. My advice is, if you want a good Kung Fu flick, just go to the source. Either check out some Shaw Brother's films or look for some filmed by Golden Harvest Pictures. They have real Kung Fu stories that work while showcasing excellent Kung Fu. Rza's version is more of a Kung Fu parody that pays homage to the genre, but doesn't really hit the mark.
In the end I gave the film 2 stars. Rza did manage to insert some of the ideas you expect in a Kung Fu flick. He also enlisted the aide of Asian American actors, so he gets another star for that. But overall, this is not a great film. It's just too far out of the norm to be a good Kung Fu flick. All you're left with while watching this film is a lingering hope that it might improve. But unfortunately, it never does. Definitely a one time rental at best.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2013
If you have not seen this film, don't EVER watch this film! This is a complete and utter waste of time. With the expection of perhaps two or three of the main actors giving their all to roles they certainly knew were bad, there is really nothing I can say nice about this movie.
1. The story is aweful, that's putting it nicely because I could rant for an hour on how bad the story is alone.
2. The acting is just as bad. The only saving grace is watching Byron Mann (Ryu from the first Street Fighter movie) play a ridiculous character. To be fair, Russell Crowe and Rick Yune seemed to do their best at trying to save bad roles.
3. The music selection is distracting. Choosing to play nearly incoherent rap over unexplained scenes that supposedly impact the story line does nothing but distract from whats going on. In fact, there are entire sections of the film I can barely remember simply due to how disconnected the music was.
4. RZA, and everything about him. I may be unfairly bashing RZA (the actor for the main role and director responsible for this travesty), but every part of his involvement in the movie is most notably horrible. He can't act, period. When he is attempting to deliver dialouge he can barely be understood. The costume wardrobe he has for most of the film would be laughable if it actually felt like it was intended to be a joke (he spends about half the film walking around a beat up Chinese village dressed like Ezio from the Assassin's Creed games). His atempts at fighting are pathetic, like watching kids with a camera play power rangers. All the decisions for the film were his responsibility as the director and therefore I can aim all my disappointment squarely at him.
5. All the combat scenes are bad. I can appreciate the Tarantino style gore, but to actually do "wire-fu" this bad in a kung fu 'parody' goes beyond deliberate and into the realm of incompetent. The film could have been justified if all else were bad so long as it actually had engaging fight scenes (the movies it's based on were like that), but this movie fails on that most important ingrediant.
6. Lastly, it feels too long. At only 95-107 minutes (depending on which version you watch), the movie itself is not long, but it is so filled with extranious backstories, worthless side stories and explanations, and forgettable if not unhearable dialouge that the movie just grinds on forever.
It's sad to see so many good names drug through the mud in this film. Do not be fooled by the "Tarantino Presents", RZA was the director and main screenplay and story writer for this movie. Knowing that films like this can be done right (see Kung Pow: Enter the Fist and Tarantino's own Kill Bill) and that expectations for this kind of movie really shouldn't be that high, it is a total shame to see a movie like this take money that could have been used for much more worthy projects. DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2013
Bad directing, bad acting, bad dialogue, bad special effects. Rza tries to squeeze in too many storylines and doesn't do a good job segwaying between these subplots. Which also makes the movie long and drawn out.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2013
This movie wanted to be like a original Chinese Kung Fu movie, but fails as it seems to strange to watch. The action and fights scenes are okay. The story is really weird to watch. It seems like they just threw in a bunch of old kung fu movie cliches in and made a not so believable movie. It is defiantly a interesting watch, but only if you have a lot of free time on your hands. Also, you have to have nothing else to watch, otherwise, you might want to pass on this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2013
Man, where to begin? Firstly, I am a life-long fan of martial arts films. Everything from Kurosawa's 1943 (Judo vs Jujitsu) classic "Sanshiro Sugata", to the modern gore & brutality of 2011's "The Raid", and just about everything in between. I fell in love with film fighting during the '80s, when I was allowed to stay up late to watch "Kung Fu Theater", featuring traditional Chinese fighting styles and costumes. My discovery was probably not too long after the film's 1st time writer/director, RZA, began his own obsession with this particular brand of escapism. When I first heard that RZA was writing and directing a kung fu movie, I could barely contain my excitement. A while later, when I finally saw the first trailer for it, I could hardly contain my contempt. It looked awful. After unfavorable reviews started pouring in, I thought it best to cut my losses and avoid seeing it at all. Many months passed until just last week, when it was available for checkout from my local library. A trusted source's recent reserved recommendation sealed the deal. I lowered my expectations and had a go. I gotta say, there was some pretty cool stuff going on here. Was it still disappointing? Yes, but if I came away with anything, it's a sincere hope that RZA continues in this profession. My man leapt right into the 35th Chamber of filmmaking, and while not graduating, I think he showed the monks he means business.
In Jungle Village (kind of a late-1800s, Chinese version of Mos Eisley from "Star Wars"), powerful clans converge to steal a large portion of gold that will be escorted through town via the governor's order. Knowing of the cutthroats that reside there, the governor has requested the extra security of the Lion clan. The clan's leader, Gold Lion (Chen Kwan Tai, "Dragon Tiger Gate") agrees until his lieutenants, Silver (Byron Mann, "Belly of the Beast") & Bronze (Cung Le, "Dragon Eyes") betray and murder him. Seems they want the gold for themselves. Not taking the other clans too seriously, it seems the only real threat to their plan is Gold's son, Zen Yi, aka the X-Blade (Rick Yune, "Ninja Assassin"), and eventually Thaddeus (RZA, "Coffee & Cigarettes"), the town's blacksmith, whose business is booming with weapon requests for the impending rumble. There are many other characters, including Russell Crowe ("L.A. Confidential") as the Englishman, Jack Knife, and Lucy Liu ("Kill Bill") as the owner of the local brothel that EVERYONE frequents.
I refuse to call out RZA for plagiarism because these types of films borrowed from one another quite liberally and I recognized most of his source material. The majority of this picture was borrowed from "The Kid With The Golden Arm" (1979), "Flag of Iron" (aka "Spearman", 1980), and "Crippled Avengers" (1978): movies starring the group of 6 actors known as the Venom mob (from their most popular film together, "5 Deadly Venoms"), who worked for the Shaw Brothers studio in the mid-to-late '70s, specifically for the late director Chang Cheh ("One Armed Swordsman"). Elements are also borrowed from other Shaw flicks, like "Cave of the Silken Web" (1967) and "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" (1978).
The fight scenes? It saddens me to report that, well, frankly, they suck. The bullseye (or at least its periphery) of RZA's target audience is more-or-less me and had the kung fu been good I would've been absolutely enamored with this film. Dreadful use of wires, editing, CGI gore, and slow motion totally sink the action. RZA and co-writer Eli Roth ("Hostel") developed original weapons for the film and they're pretty sweet. If only they had figured out a way to shoot the scenes where these items were utilized. Rick Yune, Cung Le, and WWE/MMA fighter Dave Bautista (as Brass Body) are really the only ones that get to show off any good moves but they're still disappointing due to poor handling.
The Universal DVD contains both R-rated and Unrated versions, coming in at 96 & 108 minutes, respectively. The image is colorful and splendid with a nice 2.40:1 widescreen picture. Spoken languages are available in English, Spanish, and French, with subtitles in English or French. Special features include: deleted scenes, "A Look Inside...", "Path To The East", and "On The Set With RZA". I really can't recommend this as a martial arts film but I can as a slice of kung fu nostalgia for old-school fans. The casting was excellent and the acting, story, score, and direction were actually much better than I expected. Sets & costumes were well done, too. Really, everything but the action, which is kind of a big deal for this genre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2012
Addison Smith (RZA) is a blacksmith in an anachronistic 19th century medieval Oriental village. His plan is to leave the area with his prostitute girlfriend Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) to whom he gives his money to put away for when they escape. There are two villages/ clans that are in battle with each other, the Lions and the Wolves who come complete with their own puns. The emperor asks the head of the Lions, Gold Lion (Kuan Tai Chen) to take a shipment of gold to a northern village as some sort of peace offering (plot isn't important in this film). He is betrayed and killed by his two deputies, Silver and Bronze Lion. I think you see where this naming thing is going...move over James Bond.
Zen Yi, The X-Blade (Rick Yune) decides to avenge his father's death while Silver Lion has declared war on the Wolf Clan and the Geminis escort the gold. To add to the confusion, Silver Lion has hired the impenetrable Brass Body (Dave Bautista) to hunt Zen Yi while Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) a British killer fortune seeker hangs out at the very colorful brothel called the Pink Blossom run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu).
This film includes a modern hip-hop sound track complete with MF and N words. The martial arts fighting ignores the laws of gravity. The blood squirts are over the top bright red. Zen Yi has spring loaded 8 inch spikes that pop out of 2 inches of armor. The fighting is extremely choreographed. Of course there is the signature Tarantino restaurant scene and split screen. No weird flashbacks. RZA didn't copy that. Worth a view for "Kill Bill" fans.
Parental Guide: F-bombs, N-word, sex, no nudity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
RZA loves Hong-Kong martial arts movies. Even if you don't know the origin of his group's name Wu-Tang Clan, you know that for sure after watching "The Man with the Iron Fists" RZA stars and directs. Together with such famous actors like Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, RZA's feature debut includes such veteran Chinese actors as Kuan Tai Chen, Ka-Yan Leung and Chia Hui Liu (credited as Gordon Liu), the star of, yes, "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin."
Unfortunately, loving something is one thing; making it actually is another. "The Man with the Iron Fists" just doesn't have a good story to tell, and a central character that hold our attention throughout the film's running time. Here RZA plays the titular reluctant hero, a skilled weapon-making blacksmith in the 19th century Chinese "Jungle Village," where warring clans fight over power, money and honor.
But I'd rather not summarize the plot which is slow and pretty dull. To be fair, the martial arts sequences are interesting, being choreographed by Cory Yuen (choreographer of "The Transporter" and many others). The gorgeous production design, with the set made in China, is also impressive.
This is RZA's homage to the 70s exploitation movies including Shaw Brothers kung-fu films. Like Tarantino's "Kill Bill," the film is made with love for the genre, but that is not enough to make a compelling action movie that stands on its own.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2013
Oh, my. Where to begin? I am watching this steaming pile as I write this. I'm about 45 minutes into it. I am 39 years old, and grew up on Kung Fu Cinema. I have enjoyed "recent" kung fu movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Iron Monkey, and Kung Fu Hustle. I ran some errands today, and on the way home, hit up the Redbox. That is relevant info, from the standpoint that you need to know at the rental cost of $1.59, I feel completely taken. Holy cow, this is bad. Why Tarantino put his name on the front of this, I have no idea. I know he and Eli Roth (co wrote screenplay) are buds, I guess he owed him a favor. The characters are laughable. With the clans named after animals, there are may bad puns delivered. Take out the violence, and this could be an SNL skit. I have zero idea what Russell Crowe, and Lucy Liu, are doing in this. Are their careers really so bad, at this point? As for the writer, and "star", of this movie, this RZA guy. I will go as far to say that there are some decent ideas here. Rival clans fighting for power, betrayal, cool weapon ideas, etc... The mistake was that he should've had a real writer punch up his ideas, and make it flow better. Second, and BIGGEST mistake? Casting himself as the star. His facial expressions rival only Tim Duncan (sports reference). His lines are delivered in a mumbled, lackluster, fashion, that make the viewer believe nothing. He should have taken a page from those who've come before him, like Tarantino, Hitchcock, and just given himself a cameo, or small speaking part. In closing, I wish I had taken a minute to read the reviews, and spared myself this hot mess. 38 minutes to go, I don't think I'm going to make it. I should've rented SKYFALL. *sigh*