Movie Review - The Man with the Iron Fists
Having worked in a comic shop, a video store and a hip hope record store, I feel that I am perfectly primed to review The Man with the Iron Fists (TMWTIF). A star studded affair from the ground up, TMWTIF has Quentin Tarantino producing while Wu Tang Clan co-founder RZA directs and co-writes the screenplay with Cabin Fever and Hostel director, Eli Roth. Add to this a cast which includes Lucy Liu, Korean-American stalwart Rick Yune, up and comer Jamie Chung and our very own scene stealer Russell Crowe and you have the makings of a rather special ode to kung fu.
Welcome to the 36 chambers.
From the very first scene it is bleedingly obvious that TMWTIF is a love letter to kung fu films of the 60's and 70's, more specifically, Shaw Bros films. This fact is an important one to note because much of the film depends on the realisation that this is as much an homage as it is an original work. In fact, the characterisation of many players is reflected throughout the film as too the fight choreography which are far fetched and at times, far from polished. In a sense, the "grind house" feel pays its due respect far more than the rather heavy handed use of CGI in one particular fight scene with Rick Yune and the brass armour which at times covers David Bautista's body. Such glossy CG removes the viewer from what is otherwise an endearingly low budget fare.
While also inspired by Quentin Tarantino's own kung fu homage, Kill Bill, screen writers RZA and Eli Roth don't quite manage to fill the boots of QT. While the dialogue is at times delightfully cheesy, it doesn't quite manage to be as engaging as QT's which, is in itself a ridiculous complaint. QT is one of the best dialogue writers in recent memory. That said, RZA gives QT quite a run for his money when it comes to kung fu. It's undeniable, the RZA knows wuxia!
RZA is a man with a true love for kung fu and cinema in general as evidenced by one particular scene in which Silver Lion (Byron Mann) requests a flunkie kiss his ring in almost the exact intonation as Rick Yune does in Fast and the Furious (kiss my shoes). His love of film is obvious throughout and such love translates to the screen in one of the best action films of the year.
An admission is due on my part. When I first saw the trailer for this film I was excited to say the least. Wu Tang Clan is one of my favourite hip hop groups and the 36 Chambers was a revelation and still impresses to this day. RZA too is an impressive creature, being a close friend of QT and having previously worked with Jim Jamrusch in Ghost Dog. Sadly, however, I found myself doubtful when I saw that our very own Russell "Rusty" Crowe was attached. Any doubt that I may have had is now gone. Crowe is the best character in the film and impresses to no end. His personification of Jack Knife is disgusting, frightening and hilarious all at once and even during action sequences, Rusty shows that he could still crack heads. While I may be wrong with this theory, I couldn't help but feel that one particular moment was a nod to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" by the late Ol' Dirty Bastard.
Action packed and gory as hell, The Man With The Iron Fists is one hell of a ride.
The Man With The Iron Fists is in Australian cinemas from December 6th.