31st Mar2013

‘The Man With the Iron Fists’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: RZA, Lucy Liu, Dave Bautista, Russell Crowe, Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Cung Le | Written and Directed by RZA

Presented by Quentin Tarantino and produced in collaboration with filmmaker Eli Roth, The Man With the Iron Fists is the big-screen directorial debut of Wu-Tang Clan member and huge kung-fu movie fan RZA, and is a throwback to the types of wildly over the top kung-fu films that flooded flea-pit cinemas and video store shelves in the late 70s and early 80s; and tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in 19th-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all.

Since his arrival in China’s Jungle Village, the town’s blacksmith (RZA) has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become saviour of his adopted people.

Originally a four hour epic cut down to a slim 95 minutes, The Man With the Iron Fists – in its current form – is a relentless, action-packed, foray into what is now sadly a forgotten art form. Yes, we still get the odd wuxia film out of the Far East, and the continent is still producing many a historical epic. However there’s no real representation for the exploitation flick in kung-fu movies today – gone are the madcap films of Godfrey Ho, there’s no more Jimmy Wang Yu chop-socky madness to fill our screens with and gone are the days of low-budget kung-fu wannabes Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Dragon Lee et al. So RZA’s homage to a bygone era is, at least for fans of the sub-genre, a breath of fresh air in the see of generic Hollywood action movies… And one that I think deserves to stand amongst the works of the Shaw Brothers as a fantastic example of the kung-fu movie.

The reason The Man With the Iron Fists works so well is clearly RZA. His passion, his drive, his love of the genre is deftly translated to the screen – and it doesn’t hurt that the film has one of the best casts to grace a martial arts flick since Enter the Dragon! Of particular highlight are Russell Crowe as the drunken mercenary Jack Knife and ex-WWE star Dave Bautista as Brass Body – the pair manage to surprise in the respective roles: Crowe is an enigmatic “hero” giving a multi-faceted performance that I’ve not seen from him in a long time; whilst Bautista channels the spirit of early 80s era movie hardmen Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his villainous role, and you have to love the amazing “brass body” SFX in his battle with RZA (you can check that out in our mash-up here). Meanwhile Lucy Liu appears to be channelling her O-Ren Ishii character from Kill Bill in her role as the sultry Madam Blossom.

But the real star of The Man With the Iron Fists is the action… The fight scenes are incredibly well-choreographed with some tremendous examples of traditional hand-to-hand combat, swordplay and wire work, and are completed fantastically by RZA’s score, which blends hip-hop and soul music in what should be an incongruous mix – but instead the dichtomy really works, bringing a vitality to the on-screen action not seen in more “mainstream” action flicks. If you love kung-fu movies, action movies or just kick-ass fun flicks then you should snap up The Man With the Iron Fists when it hits retail this week – you won’t be disappointed.

Extras on the Blu-ray release include Deleted Scenes: The Saga of Gold Lion; Jack Knife Journey Through Wolf Mountain; Zen Yi and Chan Make Camp; Blacksmith Doctors Zen Yi; Mirror Maze, A Look Inside The Man with the Iron Fists, A Path to the East, On the Set with RZA: The Journey Begins; Casting Legends; Respect The Classics; Visualising the Story; First Person Shooter

The Man With the Iron Fists is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray Steelbook on April 1st.

***** 5/5

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