2012 has delivered some pretty interesting movies so far, but none of them held my anticipation more than Wu-Tang leader RZA’s directorial debut, “The Man with the Iron Fist”. As a Hip-Hop head and self-proclaimed Wu-disciple, I felt that it would only be right that the RZA’s first film would be a kick-ass martial arts flick. My only concern was that the film had nothing to do with 36 chambers (contrary the Wu-Tang Clan’s dynamic debut album). The true question is whether the film lived up to the hype. After all, Bobby Digital has shared a couple unsung efforts in and outside the music industry. Remember the Wu-Tang video game for the Playstation?
Based on the trailer, the film is expected to follow a Mortal Kombat-esque tournament theme. Instead, the film follows the classic martial arts theme and tells a story of fate, revenge, and a little love. Set in 19th century China, the movie follows a humble blacksmith (RZA) who crafts powerful weapons of destruction in hopes of escaping Jungle Village with his girlfriend, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), an employee of femme fatale Lady Blossom’s (Lucy Liu) Pink Blossom Brothel. The brothel is the central location of focus and current rest stop for charismatic yet dangerous British soldier Jack Knife (Russell Crowe). While the blacksmith is working and Jack is playing, Silver Lion (Byron Mann) begins his bloodthirsty quest for power and wealth by betraying and murdering his brother, Golden Lion (Chen Kuan-tai), and taking over Lion Clan. This act of treason prompts Golden Lion’s son, the X-blade (Rick Yune) to seek revenge shortly after swearing his love to his girlfriend. Aware of the X-blade’s power, Silver Lion hires a mercenary known solely as the Brass Body (David Batista) to destroy him and anyone who stands in their way.
The film is action-packed with semi-subtle sexual tension and violently graphic fight scenes that would combine the elements of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Ninja Assassin”. Unfortunately, an hour and a half is not enough time to allow the story to develop some depth and explore each main character’s development, leading to heavily delayed character development and very few people truly knowing the purpose of Jack Knife, other than to be a total bad a**. Each actor performed successfully, but the sudden scene changes between characters made it a bit difficult to follow the story consistently throughout.
As far as sound and visuals go, RZA did not pull any punches (no pun intended) when creating this film. The film gained points in minimizing foul language and leaving plenty sexual energy of the film to the imagination, sometimes in a comical way. The fight scenes in the movie are where the film both shines and dulls. The film emphasized the blood and guts of martial arts fighting, focusing more on dismemberment rather than the fight itself. Personally, the fight scenes seem to have focused more on style than substance.
“The Man with the Iron Fists” is actually not a bad movie, but it surely is no “Ip Man”. It stands strong by staying true to the tradition of martial arts film and effectively blending musical elements into the movie, making it worthy of a glance. In addition to the decent movie is a very solid soundtrack, featuring an eclectic mix of artists including The Black Keys, Kool G. Rap, Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, the Wu-Tang Clan, and more. However, the film’s uninspired cliches and superficial yet rushed delivery makes this film fall short of being a simply great film. If the movie had allowed more time for balanced plot development, this film could easily be one of the best martial arts films of the decade, at least. I applaud RZA for this effort, but I expect more from his future releases. Either way, Wu-Tang Clan still ain’t nothin’ to f*** with.