14th May2015

‘The Man With the Iron Fists 2′ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: RZA, Dustin Nguyen, Eugenia Yuan, Carl Ng, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Schnitrnunt Busarakamwong, Grace Huang, Pim Bubear, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Andrew Lin, Kowit Wattanakul, Charlie Ruedpokanon, Nophand Boonyai, Simon Yin | Written by John Jarrell, RZA | Directed by Roel Reine

TMWTIF2-cast

I was a huge fan of the first film in what now looks to be a burgeoning new martial arts film franchise. The Man With the Iron Fists was everything I love about martial arts movie and was obviously a labour of love for its star and Wu_Tang Clan member RZA. Sadly, despite the out-pouring of love from wuxia fans and internet geeks like myself, the film did not perform as well as I’m sure the studio would’ve liked. But that doesn’t stop the franchise from continuing as a direct-to-market series – and so we have The Man With the Iron Fists 2.

This time round Thaddeus (RZA) washes ashore in a 19th century Chinese mining town. Found badly wounded by miner Li Kung’s (Nguyen) daughter he is offered refuge by Li and his wife Ah Ni (Yuan). As he heals, he becomes entrenched in a conflict that pits the townsfolk against the evil Master Ho (Ng), his nefarious Beetle Clan and the terrifying Lord Pi (Tagawa). With Thaddeus at his side, the mild-mannered Li Kung transforms into a deadly warrior…

It’s clear from the get-go that The Man With the Iron Fists 2 is not Thaddeus’ tale this time round. This is more like a passing of the torch from RZA’s hero to Dustin Nguyen’s mild-mannered Li Kung and that’s not actually a bad thing. Nguyen is much more charismatic than RZA and, given his wealth of acting experience, actually makes for a more likeable hero. Plus it’s about time an American wuxia film had American star of Asian descent in the lead!

Its not only the leade the RZA gives up for this film. For this outing writer/director/star RZA gives up directing chores to Roel Reine, a man who has – since helming is first US film in 2008 – made a name for himself within what used to be called the DTV community as the go-to guy when it comes to directing sequels to existing franchises. He has, in the past 7 years helmed two Death Race prequels, The Scorpion King 3 (although that’s nothing to write home about), and four WWE Studios sequels including The Marine 2 and 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded.

It’s safe to say Reine is something of a gun-for-hire, and everyman if you will, although his years of action movie experience have – in this case – stood him in good stead. Although I do wish he’d take a leaf out of his Death Race cohort Tony Giglio’s recent action flick Extraction, and actually let the fighters in The Man With the Iron Fists 2 actually fight! He over-reliance on Hollywood-style action movie editing in many of the battles, takes away from the wuxia style RZA is obviously aiming for.

If anything, despite the things working against the film, the plot is just on the right side of completely insane to make this movie totally work. Betrayals, plot twists, gore-filled violence (this film is seemingly obsessed with beheadings), bizarre kung-fu fights – underwater battle anyone? – and a villain worthy of the audiences hatred: these are the types of cliches and stereotypes that marked out the 70s-era martial arts movies. If RZA and co. were aiming for an homage to those films, they acheived that here, even moreso than they did in the original movie. Maybe taking this franchise back to the low-budgets DTV roots actually worked in The Man With the Iron Fists 2‘s favour?

Something of a slow-burner, the action doesn’t really kick in until two thirds of the way into the film, The Man With the Iron Fists 2 is still a worthy sequel and, for those who really dig the old-school films of the Shaw Bros. (King Boxer, Mad Monkey Kung-Fu, The Five Venoms et al.) this is definitely a crowd-pleaser.

The Man With the Iron Fists 2 is available now on VOD platforms (iTunes, Google Play etc.), the film hits DVD and Blu-ray on May 18th.

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