The Man with the Iron Fists: Rated “R“ (96 Minutes)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Jamie Chung, Dave Bautista, Pam Grier
Directed by: RZA
In a remote Chinese village in the 19th Century, a Blacksmith (RZA) is forced by the various warlords in the area to create elaborate weapons of death for their armies. The Blacksmith, professes to be a man of peace and hates that he builds such weapons, but does so only because of the money it brings in which he then gives to the love of his life, Lady Silk (Chung) which they are planning on using to ultimately get away from the village. However, when the actions of Silver Lion (Byron Mann) — a traitor to one of the warlords — threatens to destroy the delicate balance of power in the village, The Blacksmith joins a gathering of warriors and assassins in order to protect their community.
Into this mix of Lion and Wolf clansmen comes an American stranger, Jack Knife (Crowe) who has a voracious appetite for both beautiful women and rivers of booze as well as a zest for life, and a very deadly knife. He arrives at the local brothel he is cautiously welcomed as an old friend, but there is clearly more to this man than first meets the eye. When the son of the slain leader learns of his father’s untimely death, he too heads for the village with warriors loyal to him in order to extract revenge.
As each side lines up their own warriors (including a man of bronze who can literally turn his skin into metal to protect him from harm) the Blacksmith channels an ancient energy that transforms him into a living weapon. As the brewing war boils over into naked aggression, the Blacksmith chooses to fight alongside other iconic heroes and against the soulless villains who would seek to control the inhabitants of the village.
This is a very entertaining martial arts film that exudes the kind of grind house noir that is so loved by Quentin Tarantino (who acted as RZA’s mentor for the flick). Tarentino famously acquired his love for these types of “B” films while working as a film clerk in a video store. So while this film is not so elegant as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon it is actually on a much higher level than the “chop-socky” oriental imports that used to populate Saturdays on local TV here in the U.S. during the ‘70s & ‘80s. There is plenty of the old ultraviolence and theatrically splurting blood along with the highly stylized martial arts to go around, so if you go in for this sort of stuff (which this humble reviewer so totally does) then you’ve picked the right flick!
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for nearly 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as here and elsewhere on the web.