In 2006, RZA and boy-wonder Eli Roth were stuck at the airport in Boston during a snowstorm. They got to talking, had dinner at Roth’s parents place (would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that event) and ended up catching their flight. During all this, RZA laid out the entire plot of a kung-fu flick he’d like to make to Eli Roth. Eli Roth decided to help him get this movie made. That movie is The Man with the Iron Fists.
The film focuses on Chinese village filled with feuding clans. The Lions are the most powerfuul clan and set to guard a cache of gold for the Emperor, but Silver Lion betrays the leader Gold Lion and kills him in order to gain the power and the gold. This doesn’t sit well with Gold Lions son who leaves his true love and returns to the village to set things right. Meanwhile, a blacksmith (RZA) has been biding his time making weapons for the various clans so he and his concubine lover Lady Silk can escape the village. He finds himself making weapons for both the Lions and their rivals the Jackals. A British soldier named Jack (Russell Crowe) comes in to town during all this for reasons of his own and stays at the Dragon Inn, workplace of Lady Silk and her fellow ladies of the night. He immediately befriends Lady Blossom (Lucy Liu), the owner of the Dragon Inn. All of these characters will eventually directly and indirectly team up against the corrupted Lion clan.
This movie is a LOT of fun. At first, it reminded me of those cheesy Mountain Dew commercials that came out after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and I was like “this is stupid”, but then the film found it’s footing and I ended up enjoying it more than quite a bit. I have some serious issues with the editing and directing, some scenes are edited weirdly and sped up when it should have been slowed down, and vice versa. The transitions are sometimes too clunky, and the handling of the story’s set-up is rather clunky. It seems like RZA, as a first time director, is trying on many shoes to see which ones fit. When he gets it right though, the results are glorious! There is a pair called The Gemini Killers (perhaps a nod to The Exorcist III?)who have a really great scene fighting the Lion clan. My girlfriend commented that they were like the martial arts answer to couples figure skating, and yeah, that’s about right.There are several nods to other films, especially the Shaw Bros flicks and an ending that deliberately cribs from Enter the Dragon, so for kung-fu geeks, there is a spot the reference game going on, but not to the point where it’s like RZA is winking at you from behind the screen. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is NOT to be taken seriously — you have a guy with a spinning knife gun that shoots ninja stars (the films weaponry is stupidly brilliant) — but it is it’s own movie
And the scenery, the movie looks amazing. Every scene is visual feast, worthy of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and others of that ilk. For a first time director, RZA nails the setting and main set-pieces. With all the problems the film has with the spastic editing, there is a great talent on display here. It’s like this, Rob Zombie had to make House of 1000 Corpses before we got The Devil’s Rejects. If RZA makes another movie, I feel he’ll have it down pat and we’ll be in for something truly amazing.