the Blacksmith is a builder not a fighter.
Nonetheless, the Lion Clan is messing with the wrong tradesman when they
chop off his arms. Yes, it is time to
rumble in Nineteenth Century China. Kung
fu, Hip Hop, spaghetti westerns, and blaxploitation will be mashed-up in the
RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists (trailer here), which really did
open this week in New York—honest it did.
Lions were not always so bad. That was
before the Emperor sought their services to help secure his shipment of
gold. Succumbing to greed, Silver Lion
and Bronze Lion betray their respected clan leader Gold Lion, with the
intention of hijacking the imperial gold.
Of course, they will have to take care of one loose end: Gold Lion’s
son, Zen Yi, who has left his mountain retreat and lovely wife for some old
school revenge. Unfortunately, he is no
match for Brass Body, the Kung Fu equivalent of the X-Men’s Colossus.
of his armor, Zen Yi is rescued from certain death by the Blacksmith and his
lover, Lady Silk, one of the “employees” of Madame Blossom’s house of
pleasure. Troubled by the death and
destruction wrought by his handiwork, the Blacksmith throws his lot in with Zen
Yi. Needless to say, this leads to a
rather nasty encounter with Silver Lion, Brass Body, and a very sharp
blade. Yet, as the title indicates, he
still knows his way around a forge. He
also has an unlikely ally in Jack Knife, the opium addicted British ex-pat
serving as the Emperor’s secret emissary.
you’re looking for Oscar bait, Iron Fists
probably isn’t your cup of tea. Not
exactly subtle or refined filmmaking, the RZA basically just lets the chaos fly. He “borrows” liberally from scores of
previous martial arts films, even including Enter
the Dragon’s oft imitated finale. Still,
its energy is admirable. Corey Yuen’s
fight choreography is consistently inventive and there is plenty of eye
candy. In fact, the large supporting
cast brings all kinds of genre credibility, starting with the Cung Le, sporting
the Yahoo Serious coif as Bronze Lion. On-the-brink-of-stardom
Grace Huang (so cool in the short film Bloodtraffick)
also kicks butt convincingly as part of the duo known as the Gemini Killers.
the biggest surprise of Iron Fists is
Russell Crowe’s rip-roaring scenery-chewing portrayal of Jack Knife. He obviously understood what sort of film he
was making and was willing to just go with it.
As Madame Blossom, Lucy Liu essentially reprises her turn from Kill Bill, but that is not necessarily a
bad thing. Frankly, the RZA isn’t
terrible as the Blacksmith, brooding well enough. The villains are more of a mixed bag
though. Former wrestler David Bautista
certainly looks the part of Brass Body, but Byron Mann’s Silver Lion is more
flamboyant than menacing.
Look, what do you want from a Kung Fu smackdown
directed by a rapper, even if it is “executive produced” by Quentin
Tarantino? It might be chocked full of
genre clichés and clumsy flashbacks, but if the prospect of watching RZA beat
the Lion Clan silly while Crowe cavorts with a bevy of Asian prostitutes strikes
you as entertaining than Iron Fists totally
delivers the goods. Let’s call it a
guilty pleasure and leave it at that. It
really is currently playing in New York, above 34th Street, at the
Labels: Cung Le, Grace Huang, Lucy Liu, Martial arts cinema, Russell Crowe, RZA