Aug 26, 2013

[Movies] The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

You can't exactly call me a major Quentin Tarantino fan, but I do respect his work. And on the whole, I do enjoy his movies, and that's certainly a good thing. So when I see his name attached to a project, I'm generally willing to go out of my way to see it.

This movie was a bit of a bait and switch though - and boo on me for not doing my homework before watching the movie. I just saw Tarantino's name attached to the project with starts like Lucy Liu and Russel Crowe and I was pretty much committed. I was actually rather excited to watch this movie given its martial arts bent and I love Tarantino's homages.

But this movie is only "presented" by Quentin Tarantino. He literally just slapped his name on the movie as a sort of favor to RZA, who is the actual director and co-writer. So ultimately that feels like a major bait-and-switch of some sort.

Synopsis: The Man with the Iron Fists is a 2012 martial arts movie written and directed by RZA together with co-screenwriter Eli Roth. This is RZA's first feature film.

The movie is set in a place known as Jungle Village in 19th century China. The village is home to different clans who are constantly at war with one another - and these clans include the Lions, the Wolves and the Hyenas, to name a few. The town is home to a Blacksmith (RZA) who makes weapons for all the clans and has become quite skilled with his work. He is also narrates the movie.

The governor entrusts a large gold shipment to the Lion Clan that will pass through the village. Naturally the amount of gold involved leads to betrayal as Gold Lion's (Chen Kuan-tai) sons, Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le), kill him in order to take over the clan and secure the gold for themselves. They are aided by Poison Dagger (Daniel Wu), a mysterious figure who specializes in poison darts. News of his father's death eventually reaches Zen-Yi (Rick Yune), Gold Lion's favored son. Thus naturally he swears to find his father's killers as he returns home.

In theory, the Blacksmith is the lead character in this movie. He somehow narrates the whole thing and appears to have near omniscience over the whole story. But he's played by RZA, who has one slack-jawed expression in all of his scenes. I understand that he loves martial arts movies and I respect that this is his first movie but seriously, the man can't act. He lacks the presence needed to play a leading role and just doesn't cut it here. He is such a horrible choice for the lead role and drags the movie down.

The movie also has Batista in it. His skin can somehow turn into brass (although it looks more like cheap gold to me). It's horrible. How is this even some sort of a martial art?

The most brilliant thing about the movie are the fight scenes. Here we have to give credit that some great fight choreographers are involved in this project. And we have all sorts of crazy fighting styles, one of my favorites being the Gemini's fighting style. Let's ignore the fact that Gemini is a Western Zodiac and just enjoy how crazy it is that they have a martial art that requires two of them for it to work. Totally crazy.

The story is decent but nothing amazing - and I wasn't expecting much given it is a martial arts movie. The soundtrack is distracting since naturally it's RZA's music. Or at least I assume it is - I don't exactly know precisely what his music is like. But it goes without saying that it's very strong and modern and I'm not sure if ti really fits the desired tone of the movie.

The Man with the Iron Fists is well-intentioned but with the wrong man at the helm of things. I feel bad since a lot of good talent was assembled for this movie but in the end it felt rather wasted. Such a shame. I can only give the movie 2 hidden blades built into Zen-Yi's ridiculous outfit out of a possible 5.

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