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The Man with the Iron Fists’: All Slashing and No Substance

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There’s violent, there’s gory, there’s weird and then there’s “The Man with the Iron Fists.”

The martial-arts action extravaganza, directed and co-written by RZA of the Wu Tang Clan, tells the story of a convoluted mess of death and destruction in a small Chinese village.

A mysterious character that works as the village’s blacksmith (RZA) narrates the story. A shipment of gold is to be shipped through the blacksmith’s small village, and the different tribes gear up for war as each plans to intercept the payment and take control of the village for themselves.

A British soldier (Russell Crowe) who wields a spinning knife contraption capable of performing an instant autopsy on a man and a guy literally made of brass (David Bautista) turn up in town with uncertain motives and dangerous tendencies.

And on top of it all, the owner of the local brothel (Lucy Liu) starts hinting that she may be looking to stake her claim on some of the power up for grabs. Oh, and by the way, the blacksmith’s girlfriend works at the brothel, and they’re planning on running away from it all soon.

The plot isn’t that important, though. The movie pretty much moves from one fight scene and set of weapons to another, with little importance placed on the in-between storyline.

And oh dear, are they some fight scenes guts ripping, heads being punched straight off, heads exploding, warriors flying through the air in true martial-arts film style.
The inventiveness of the characters in this film comes entirely from their weapons and abilities, sparing not a single ounce on any actual “character.”

The “Brass Body” appears to be a normal man, albeit shredded to steroid-body-builder level. However, when he gets hit with anything, his body transforms into brass and the blow is deflected. He can also rip people’s throats out, MacGruber style. How does he gain all these mystical abilities? Don’t worry about it.

The blacksmith has his hands chopped off and, to deal with this new disability, builds himself a pair of new, magical, iron fists, capable of amazing feats (knocking dude’s head off).

Crowe’s character, Jack Knife, rips a guy’s guts out in his first scene in the film. Be warned, anyone with tender sensibilities or who’ve eaten at the Oriental or Mediterranean lines in the dining hall recently, this movie is not for you.

RZA is a capable director when it comes to meshing American-Western themes with a martial-arts core and transforming it into a wildly violent and highly entertaining affair. He is especially obsessed with blood, placing heavy emphasis on it and even artistically maneuvering it at times. Again, this is not a movie for the meek.

The movie suffers ultimately from being mostly uninteresting beyond the violence. Quentin Tarantino (who’s listed as a producer) makes films that specialize in gore but excel in character-driven stories. RZA doesn’t have the same eye for story as Tarantino just yet.

And, perhaps more debilitating, the action sequences, while well choreographed, are often edited to the point of being frantic and confusing.
While not unentertaining and a promising effort for first-time director RZA, the film falls short of Tarantino-esque greatness.