The Man with the Iron Fists Review
Written by Ethan Harmon
Anyone who is a fan of rap will tell you that the Wu Tang Clan is one of the best groups that the genre has ever seen. Lead by RZA, the mastermind behind the group, the Wu Tang Clan immediately grew into one of the most popular and wildly successful rap groups in history. But over time, the members of the group have gone their separate ways, releasing solo studio albums. RZA has taken a step in a different direction, becoming a renaissance man of sorts. Diving into the world of film, RZA has appeared on the hit show Californiacation, but it was just a start for the rap icon. Acting propelled him toward directing, which has in turn produced the kung-fu epic The Man with the Iron Fists.
The film has a basic martial arts movie set-up. In nineteenth century China, warring clans are fighting for supremacy and the allure of the Emperor’s gold. A humble blacksmith (played by RZA) is forging weapons for money, hoping to acquire enough to free his lover Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) from the local brothel, which is run by the ruthless Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu). Things only become more complicated when Jack Knife – the mysterious, perverse British soldier played by Russell Crowe – comes into town, showing off his unique set of tricks. The situation spirals out of control, pulling the blacksmith into a world of corruption and violence, leaving him no choice but to create the greatest weapon of them all.
Like most martial arts films, the story is not going to be the main driving force of the movie. It’s simple and it serves its purpose, and that’s all it needs to do. The acting in this film is mostly great, thanks to the incredibly strange, yet remarkably enjoyable Russell Crowe. He plays Jack Knife with flash and flair, gleefully hogging up the screen. It’s a performance unlike any other the actor has portrayed. RZA does well as the blacksmith. His character is driven, but very soft-spoken. It allows RZA to balance his directorial duties along with acting, which is good provided that the end result is enjoyable. Lucy Liu and Rick Yune are great as Madam Blossom and X-Blade, respectively.
With a movie like this, audiences will not be crowding the theater for its story and acting. No. Audiences want to see some incredible fight scenes that will blow their minds. How does this movie fair in that aspect? The Man with the Iron Fists makes up for its flaws with its over-the-top, crazy fight sequences. Each scene is choreographed differently, giving each fight its own unique spin. Watching X-Blade obliterate a group of thugs with his suit of spikes will have mouths drop, and seeing the blacksmith don his weapons will stretch eyelids open. The final act of the movie will bring a smile to the face as the screen is exploding with insane martial arts ass-kicking.
The Man with the Iron Fists is an admirable directorial debut for RZA. This movie will no doubt be criticized for its flaws, but a movie like this is not made to obtain awards. Movies like this are created to celebrate and show off martial arts, and RZA has done a fine job putting this on display for the world to see. Though the movie lacks depth, it is nonetheless fun to watch. Plus, what’s cooler than watching fight scenes with Wu Tang bumping in the background?