There are passages of exceptional beauty and style, but overall The Man with the Iron Fists is too bloody and derivative to create a lasting impression. As the movie is playing, you grin at the crazy names, the ponderous voice over and marvel at the cool kung fu but by the time the end credits roll, you’ve already forgotten the film.
The titular man with the iron fists is the narrator of the events at Jungle Village (like, really?). A freed slave and blacksmith, he creates weapons of mass destruction to free his love, Lady Silk who works in the Pink Blossom, a brothel run by Madame Blossom. A consignment of government gold is passing through the village and various clans are fighting one another to get the gold. Silver lion of the powerful lion clan kills off the leader, Gold Lion (it goes down all the way to tin!) and wants to take the gold for himself. He hires the mercenary, Brass Body, to kill Zen-Yi, Gold Lion’s son, who comes to Jungle Village to avenge his father’s death. There is also Jack Knife, a British soldier with a fondness for the ladies, knife fights and opium. The government hires The Geminis, a pair of highly trained fighters to protect their gold.
The movie lurches from one phenomenally choreographed fight scene to the next with a load of clumsy exposition thrown in between. Director and writer RZA gave music for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and apparently took copious notes on Tarantino’s directorial style. The movie is a faithful representation of Tarantino’s style — with the gushing arteries and bizarre plot but RZA doesn’t have Tarantino’s moxie to carry off a revisionist western crossed with a martial arts film set in 19th century China.
Performance wise, Russell Crowe rocks. Crowe seems to be unafraid of unconventional career choices; after a musical (Les Miserables), here he chews up the scenery as Jack Knife. Lucy Liu as Madame Blossom is good as steel sheathed in silk. Rick Yune as Zen-Yi, with many blades coming out of his body and David Bautista as the mercenary Brass Body are fun to watch.
Music by RZA doesn’t come anywhere close to his work in Kill Bill. It is eminently forgettable like the film.
Genre: Martial arts
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, RZA, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung
Storyline: Warring clans in 19th century fight over a shipment of gold
Bottomline: Arresting in parts