The Man with the Iron Fists
You are likely to have nearly as much fun seeing this film as Jack Knife does in the company of his three gorgeous prostitutes.
This is an outrageous, admittedly profane movie that is phenomenally enjoyable from beginning to end. Directed by RZA, who co-wrote the screenplay, it takes on the martial arts epics and transforms them into a lovely bloody mess.
It is basically impossible to describe the plot, but let me try. A beloved Chinese war lord, known as the Gold Lion, is betrayed and killed by subordinates. Not satisfied with their stolen treasure, they attempt to attack a government shipment of additional bullion as it descends on a small village.
These are brutal assassins with a nasty sense of humor. Led by the crafty Bronze Lion (a wonderful engaging Cung Le), they have sensational acrobatic skill that can all but suspend them in midair. They are helped by an invincible character named Brass Body, played with pissy exuberance by Dave Bautista. He is a guy you simply shouldn’t try to fight, as he literally can feel no pain.
Against this hoard of marauders emerges the Chinese version of the Three Musketeers. One is RZA himself, playing a blacksmith who may be the only person in the movie with a conscience. With him is a mysterious British soldier named Jack Knife, embodied in a shamelessly memorable performance by the Oscar winning Russell Crowe. Mr. Crowe is flat out mesmerizing as a character of unknown purpose whose ability to kill with his double bladed knife is exceeded only by his insistence on “sleeping” with no fewer than three chosen prostitutes at one time.
When Mr. Crowe first appears, he checks into one of the classiest houses of prostitution to ever appear on film. Run by Madam Blossom (a ridiculously gorgeous Lucy Liu), she is a sensual woman dedicated to your sexual needs.
Finally, Crowe and RZA are joined by Zen Ya, also known as The X-Blade. Played by Rick Yune, The Blade is the angry son of the deceased Gold Lion referred to above who is seeking to avenge his father’s death. In the process, a colossal battle ensues, most of it taking place in Ms. Blossom’s lovely whorehouse, and don’t expect all heroes to live.
Since this movie is the creation of RZA with the obvious help of producer Quentin Tarentino, there are times you feel you’re on LSD as you absorb the spectacular artistic graphics combined with the pounding musical theme. As an example, blood frequently is seen squirting from the deceased to form an artistic canvas that would make Andy Warhol roll over in his grave.
In reality, The Man with the Iron Fists pays tribute to the great martial arts films that have graced the screen. It kind of combines the best of Tarentino’s Kill Bill films (2003 and 2004) and the incredibly moving The Crow (1994). The latter starred Brandon Lee, the talented 28-year-old son of Bruce Lee, who tragically died in an unbelievable accident as the filming for The Crow ended.
I couldn’t help but feel that RZA was paying tribute to young Mr. Lee when he made this film, and both are worth seeing at home, even if you missed them in the theater.