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The Best Films of 2016

The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)


Year: 2012
Director: RZA
Cast: Russell CroweLucy LiuRick YuneBryon Mann
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: R
Time: 96 mins

The Man with the Iron Fists is a deliciously bad homage to the martial art films of Bruce Lee and others whom RZA watched and idolized while growing up. After he collaborated with Quentin Tarantino on the Kill Bill soundtrack, they discussed their passion and love for martial arts films. And with Tarantino's guidance, it is no surprise that RZA is finally making his directorial and leading man debut. Although The Man with the Iron Fists is a rehashed and remixed version of the original martial art films, it is no less an exhilaratingly guilty pleasure that will guarantee some amusement.

RZA stars along Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, and Rick Yune as the local Blacksmith in nineteenth century China, who is forced to make weapons for the opposing clans lead by Silver Lion (Bryon Mann). He complies to make the weapons knowing that the payoff will allow him and his lover, Lady Silk, (Jamie Chung) a prostitute of the Pink Blossom Brothel owned by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu), to run away from the dangerously burdened place. But they are thwarted when they encounter a wounded Zen Yi aka X-Blade (Rick Yune)  who is trying to avenge his father's death by killing Silver Lion. Russell Crowe has his share of bloody fun as the British emissary, Jack Knife. 

The real pleasure is watching Lucy Liu and Bryon Man capture and vitalize the story every scene they are in. Working with the cliche of old kung-fu of asian women in brothels, Liu embraces her role as the supreme mother hen of her prostituing chicks in her eye-blinding embellished robe and bejeweled head piece every step of the way. Although it is sickening to see the reinstatement of the old stereotypical roles for asian women, RZA decided to add a twist to these fair skinned ladies that make it worth the $12.50 admissions ticket. Their fight scenes were one of the most entertaining and intoxicatingly charged scenes out of the entire film especially with Liu and her knife rimmed fan (what a lady!). And then there is Bryon Mann as the embarrassingly self-assured and comical buffoon Silver Lion. At first, I shielded my eyes ashamed as soon as I saw him as nothing more than a confirmation that there is a serious lack of good Asian actors but as it progressed, that belief slowly shed away to reveal that his behavior was merely part of his "act!" With his head raised high with his cocky stance, Mann was outrageously humorous that makes you feel mortified that you didn't know about him sooner (besides being in 1994's Street Fighter)! 

At the end of the film, you realize that The Man with the Iron Fist is like that favorite meal you've been clawing for and even though it is a little too salty and barely ripe, you savor every lasting bite because you don't know when you're going to have it again. How will we get our martial art fix ever again without revisiting tattered VHS' of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee? A poorly formulated homage is better that no homage at all. At least they revisit the classic recipe in banal vision of sixteenth century China with the clansman, brothels, and warriors. But with RZA's own modern hip-hop soundtrack streaming in the background, adds an additional off-beat and inconsistent tone to the underdeveloped story. The concepts of The Man with the Iron Fist is well thought out and brilliant but it's execution is concocted with unrefined action shots, minimal fight scenes (to my standards), and partially cooked story lines. But it's ok RZA, at least you still have music. C+


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