The Man with the Iron Fists is a film written and directed by Wu Tang Clan musician RZA. This film, now playing locally, essentially pays homage to the old martial arts films of the early 1970s. In it, RZA plays an African-American blacksmith who was freed from slavery decades earlier by his mother and slave master. The blacksmith runs afoul of the Red Lion gang because he fails to produce the weapons they need in time for them to steal a large chest of gold that belongs to the Emperor. As punishment, they kill his prostitute girlfriend and also cut off his arms. These heinous acts set the blacksmith on a path of revenge, aided in his quest by warriors named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) and Zen Yi (Rick Yune).
The only positive thing about The Man with the Iron Fists is that it looks gorgeous. A number of scenes take place inside a brothel, for instance, and they look lush and beautiful. Also, the fight scenes look great and are choreographed well. It’s just that none of what I watched affected me in any way. The story, such as it is, never delivers any surprises, and everything about the characters is very basic and by the numbers. I never found myself rooting for any specific character because they all seemed hopelessly bland to me.
The negative aspects of The Man are plentiful, beginning with the cliché characters. Not one of its characters, including the titular fighter, has a personality. The fact that the villains are after gold is rather basic and unimaginative. Also, I didn’t buy the love story between the blacksmith and the prostitute. Add to this, the fact that, any time someone isn’t fighting someone else, the pace of the film drags drastically. Saddest of all, Russell Crowe is completely wasted as Jack Knife.
The Man with the Iron Fists is a combination of martial arts and spaghetti western, and it seems RZA couldn’t decide which he wanted the film to be. The idea, though interesting, here results in a disjointed mess. This is a bland, thoughtless action picture with nothing to say about the genres on which it is based.
I wanted to feel invested in this film, but RZA gave me nothing I could cling to, other than pointless fighting and solid special effects. He will need to work much harder to make a more cohesive film on his next directorial effort.