The Man With The Iron Fists (2012) Review: You Still Get Points For Trying

Remember that Creature review we did a while back? Remember how it was mentioned that remaking an old-school genre flick and doing your damnedest to capture all its quirks can easily remind us why schlock like this died off years ago?

Well, sorry but, yeah.

After the death of Golden Lion (Kuan Tai Chen), X-Blade (Rick Yune) swears revenge and sets off on a quest to face Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le). Joining him in his quest of bad-assery is the titular Man With Some Iron Fists (RZA) – a former slave turned blacksmith (and later, turned gimp) – who is also out for revenge against the man who cut off his precious arms. Rounding out the trio of protagonists is Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) – a frumpy, middle-age mercenary who lavishes himself with beautiful women.

man with the iron fistsI’m a killer fan.

Sounds like a good old ’70s chop socky romp o’ violence, right? Sounds like a throwback to revenge fantasies, right? Sounds like a massive POS, right?

Well, that’s because it’s supposed to be.

But, does that make it excusable?

Yes – from the choreography to the wooden acting to the over-the-top spills and kills, everything in this film does evoke ’70s Hong Kong cinema, and frankly it’s executed in laugh-out-loud hilarity. That said, I’m not entirely sure how much was intentional and how much was just failed delivery.

For example, Rick Yune’s character has a suit that’s outfitted with a hundred or so retractable blades. After one outfit gains too much wear and tear, he matter-of-factly-states, “I’ll need a new suit of knives.”

Intentionally hilarious or a failed attempt to wow an audience?

man with the iron fistsBust a move!

Another good example would be the saccharine shot of RZA cradling a dead, young prostitute with his clumsy, awkward, Iron-Freaking-Hands.

Intentionally hilarious or a failed attempt at affect?

Or there are the Gemini Assassins: One straps a concealed derringer to her thigh while her partner swing-dance-wields her and fires away at a crowd of mooks. You know, as opposed to just holding the gun in his hand and shooting them.

Intentionally hilarious or just plain stupid?

The Man with the Iron Fists“They look like big, strong hands, don’t they?”

And therein lies the problem. If The Man With The Iron Fists were handled by a director with more technical skill, then maybe it’d be clearer whether a film like this is supposed to be so bad, or whether it’s just a director pouring his money into a childhood fantasy. The dull, flat expanses of film where nothing really happens suggest a lack of pacing knowledge, and the frenetic attention-deficit stabs at editing suggest a lack of common sense.

But the cringe-worthy dialogue hints at intentional blandness. Then again, it might just be the benefit of the doubt.

See, as the film is, it would work much better as a music video, or even an anime, like Afro Samurai. Having live actors act like archetypical cartoon characters while walking around in elaborate and anachronistic oriental garb just looks ridiculous, while the film lacks the energy and cojones to make it work. Worse yet, the hip-hop/kung fu mix that could sometimes connect really, really doesn’t gel here – most likely for the same reasons addressed above.

man with the iron fistsAsian steampunk?

And yet, I had a lot of fun watching, and so did the group I went with. During the rare times that they’re coherent, the fight scenes really are entertaining, and the goofball fighting styles and weaponry really do seem like they were lifted out of a time machine.

How Tarantino is messing with your head by presenting The Man with the Iron Fists, next…

The Man With The Iron Fists Movie Poster
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
2 November 2012
Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu
Official URL:
The Man With The Iron Fists

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