In order to protect his village from a band of warriors and assassins, a blacksmith must create intricate weapons of death. As well as this, the blacksmith channels an ancient energy in order to become a living weapon.
Confession time; the synopsis above is taken from IMDb. Why? Well to be honest, after sitting through almost 90 minutes of The Man with the Iron Fists, I had no idea what was going on, other than someone being angry with RZA, Russell Crowe having put on some weight and Lucy Liu playing a watered down version of O-Ren Ishii.
From watching the film, it seems as though RZA spent a lot of time watching Quentin Tarantino movies and decided that he could do the same as Tarantino; recreate a classic and beloved style of film and give it his own twist. Here is the problem though; if RZA is borrowing from Tarantino, then he is borrowing from someone who has already borrowed from someone else. Homage is a tricky thing to pull off, and this is clearly RZA’s motivation, although homage to whom is never quite clear. As well as this, Tarantino is renowned for his skill at creating dialogue and RZA’s script is nowhere near as clever or strong.
The story is a messy mess; it is hard to tell what is going on, other than there being a shipment of gold on the move, and the ‘bad guys’ want it. We know they are the bad guys because their leader gains his position by murder. This leads to a prodigal son returning to a small village to avenge his father’s death. As well as this, there is a man who can turn his skin to bronze at will and a brothel run by Lucy Liu.
Put simply, RZA is not a strong enough actor to pull off the central role he has given himself – the blacksmith – and his mumbling voiceover adds more confusion to the already messy film. The idea of transplanting an African-American into a small Chinese village is an interesting one, but the story may have benefited from some mystery surrounding the blacksmith. As it stands, his back-story is painstakingly laid out but adds little to the film as a whole, so this lead character ultimately becomes boring. Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe ham it up, and obviously have a lot of fun doing so, but their dialogue is so clichéd that even they fall flat. The fight scenes – what few there are – start off full of promise but, as the film goes on, even these gorefests become boring and predictable. The idea of scoring the fight scenes with anachronistic hip-hop music had promise, but sadly this was quickly abandoned in favour of traditional scoring.
RZA’s first cut of The Man with the Iron Fists was over four hours long and, although he wanted to release it in two parts, thankfully Eli Roth talked the director out of it. That said, this could be the problem; in cutting so much out of the film, there was little left for the audience to enjoy or understand.
In all, The Man with the Iron Fists should have been fun, the audience desperately wanted it to be fun, but with stiff acting, a needlessly complex plot and terrible dialogue, there is little to like about this film, other than some pretty but derivative cinematography. Oh, and Russell Crowe has put on a lot of weight. Shame.