Year of Release: 2012
Film Studio: Universal Pictures/Strike Entertainment/Arcade Pictures
When listening to a Wu-Tang album, it should be of no secret that RZA is a huge fan of Kung Fu flicks. It’s obvious by hearing some clips of them in some songs, especially in “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Hell, there was a Kung Fu theme for their video game, “Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style,” a game I should cover one day. RZA has made it known that he is a fan and it is obvious with this film, “The Man With The Iron Fists.”
This film was basically RZA’s pet project as he has about five different credits for this film. That’s right, he had not only directed this film, but also came up with the story outline, he co-wrote the script with Eli Roth, he composed the film’s score, and of course, he also starred in the film. That must have been tiring for him as it’s not easy to have multiple duties like that. However, the only thing that was first for him was that it was his major film directorial debut as it was not the first time he had acted or composed a score, nor was it the first time he had come up with a film idea.
In the past, there was an idea that he wanted to get off the ground, which was a film adaptation of his Bobby Digital character, not to mention a trailer (or short film) was released in 2000 of it. Two years before TMWTIF came out, a short film called “Wu-Tang vs. The Golden Phoenix” had come out. It seemed like a precursor to this film as it has the same style. According to some sources, the development for this film came about not long after RZA had done the score for the “Kill Bill” films, which is probably the reason why Quentin Tarantino had his name as the presenter of the film, despite having no credits in this film at all. At some point, RZA had met Eli Roth and they had co-written the script and at some point, the script was rewritten and Roth was disappointed in the rewrite, that they had to change it up again. However, when the film was pitched to producers, they had trusted RZA to direct after having seen “Wu-Tang vs. The Golden Phoenix.”
As noted before, this was quite a step for RZA, especially having multiple credits in this film, but what about the film itself? How was the film? Well, before I get into that, I will note two things. One, I remember having a written a review of this film for my college newspaper back when it came out. I remembered I had praised the film, but so much time had passed that I was not sure where I stood with it. I gave it a lot of credit because I am a Wu-Tang fan and enjoyed some of the fight scenes, but at a certain point, I looked back and thought it was cheesy. The other thing that I must note is that for this review, I had decided to watch both the theatrical version and the unrated extended edition back-to-back to see the differences. It wouldn’t be the first time that I had watched two different cuts of a film back-to-back.
The film’s plot involved a faction, a British soldier, and some others on the hunt for gold, while a blacksmith (Played by RZA), who makes weapons for assassins and warriors, has to defend the village that is being invaded. It seems like a plot that had been done before, but I think that is what RZA was going for as it was done as a tribute to martial arts films from the 1970’s. But even with a simple story like that, it just seemed like it was all over the place.
There were some known names in this film, such as Lucy Liu, who played Madam Blossom, a madam for a brothel in the village, and Russell Crowe, who played Jack Knife, the mysterious British soldier whose presence was unknown until the end of the film. According to IMDB, Crowe had agreed to do this film in return for RZA teaching some rap lessons to a rugby team Crowe co-owns, as well as that he only worked on this film for 10 days. He must have been rather consistent in the time of shooting because he had a lot of screen-time. Actually, Liu and Crowe didn’t do a bad job in their performances in this film. Another known name, Dave Bautista, better known as Batista in WWE, as well as his portrayal of Drax in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, mainly played a brute in this film. He didn’t really have much to work with than just be a big, hulking brute who can turn his body into brass. But what about RZA? That is a really good question. For a guy who is supposed to be the title character, he took a backseat to a lot of the events of the film, whether it was with the villains, Crowe’s character, Liu’s character, or even Bautista’s character. Sure, he had to direct it for the most part, and he had screen-time, but he didn’t really have a lot to do, nor did he really act well in his role. It’s true that he has acting credits in his name, but he really isn’t much of an actor.
What this film shined in were the fight scenes, as a lot of the choreography was well-done for those scenes, especially the use of wires for the aerial attacks. Also the score from RZA was done well, too, as the music went well with the scenes that the tracks were used in. But what was distracting in the fight sequences was the use of CGI blood. Just looking at the blood squirting out of the wounds in those sequences can’t look any more fake than it already is. It would have been better if there were blood squibs used in those scenes to make it look more real. Also, about the music, while I loved how there was a remix of “Shame on a N****” used in a scene, as well as “Unpredictable,” it just felt slightly out of place as it was anachronistic, but then again, even some other anachronistic songs were used in some other sequences.
I have to give RZA some credit for this film as he is really passionate about martial arts films, but the end result just came out as average at best, with the cons slightly outweighing the pros. The story was not all that great and it really hard to follow what was really going on. Also, while some characters had a purpose in the plot, some of them were not really needed to drive the story. Some of the story aspects were vague. Some of the actors’ performances were fine, and with a film like this, the acting is not really essential to make it good, as this film’s selling point was the action itself. The action and the fighting were actually among the pros, but something about them was taken away with the use of CGI blood. The film didn’t hold up from my first viewing of it when I saw it in theaters, but it really was not terrible either. It didn’t deserve the praise that I gave it back then, but I didn’t mind it, either. It’s not a terrible way to spend a boring day with nothing to do.
One more thing, I am aware that there is a sequel to this film, but it’s straight-to-video. I guess RZA had some more story to tell and the film didn’t do well in theaters enough to justify a theatrical release for the sequel (It was shot on $15 million but made only $19 million). I will get to that soon. The same will be said about the soundtrack for this film.
If you want to read my original review, click here. Thank you.