Genre: Martial-Arts
Director: RZA
Cast: RZA, Russell Crowe, Jamie Chung, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier, Rick Yune, Daniel Wu, Dave Bautista, Cung Le, Byron Mann
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: M18 (Violence And Sexual Scenes)
Official Website:

Opening Day: 28 February 2013 

Synopsis: Quentin Tarantino presents "The Man With the Iron Fists", an action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics as interpreted by his longtime collaborators RZA and Eli Roth. Making his debut as a big-screen director and leading man, RZA-alongside a stellar international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu-tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all. Since his arrival in China's Jungle Village, the town's blacksmith (RZA) has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans' brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.

Movie Review:

Despite the Quentin Tarantino presents’ label, “The Man with the Iron Fists” probably has little of the renowned director’s inputs. It’s more of a name-lending favor to his buddy and producer Eli Roth who co-wrote this martial-arts fest with musician-turned-filmmaker, RZA.

An obvious homage to the good old days of Shaw cinema (not referring to the Shaw chain of cinemas here) with an incredible retro-looking opening credits, the movie is full of nods to the wuxia genre given RZA himself is a fan of kung-fu and martial-arts films since young. Unfortunately by putting himself in the lead role and employing Russell Crowe as a fellow warrior makes this remake of classic Chinese martial-arts movies a tad hard to swallow.

A typical wuxia movie always has a lone hero hidden somewhere in a village. No prizes for guessing correctly who is the hero right here, RZA plays Jungle village’s blacksmith whose job is to craft weapons for the various clans ruling the region and his only desire is to free his lover, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) from the local brothel run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) once he made enough money.

When a story has a hero, there must be villains lurking. The Lion’s clan, Gold Lion (Chen Kuan Tai) is tasked by the Governor to protect a large shipment of gold but he is betrayed by his trusted men, Silver Lion (Bryon Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le), both who are conspiring with the Governor’s evil aide, Poison Dagger (Daniel Wu). At the same time, the son of Gold Lion, Zen Yi (Rick Yune) learnt of his dad’s passing and vows revenge. As a strange whiteman named Jack (Russell Crowe) enters the village’s brothel, a showdown between good and evil awaits as this rather ambitious, 95 minutes movie tries to pack in as many characters and epic action scenes into it.

Motive is a blur except that everyone is after the gold and it does no justice that our main villain, Poison Dagger only appears in the beginning and towards the end. Our hero, a former slave who is saved by Shaolin monks and enlighten by the head abbot (none other than fan favourite Gordon Liu) after a shipwreck takes an eternity to become the man with the iron fists. Did I mention RZA looks more bored than anything all the time? Bond villain Rick Yune however gets to hog the limelight fighting a bunch of silly henchmen and an X-Men like villain, Brass Body (WWE wrestler David Bautista) all this while. Gladiator turned British mercenary, Russell Crowe impresses not with his hammy acting but his all-too-cool weaponry that you must see to believe.

Lucy Liu is excellent as the ambiguous Lady Blossom and this marks one of her meatiest big screen performances after “Kill Bill”. Audience who are familiar with Hong Kong cinema will notice a few familiar faces including Andrew Lin playing a nifty warrior dubbed Gemini, an almost unrecognizable Leung Ka Yan in a blink-and-miss cameo, Terence Yin as the Governor and Dennis Chan as an innkeeper.

If the plotting comes across as clunky and the numerous characters one-dimensional, at least the wire-fu choreography by Corey Yuen together with some stomach-churning violence is surprisingly exhilarating and occasionally laugh-out-loud given the absurdity. Yuen actually did better choreography here than his recent Chinese language productions to be honest. Shot in Shanghai and Hengdian Studio, the production aspect on the whole is nothing short of impressive and for those hankering for some nudity bits might be disappointed in spite of some sexual overtones.

The original cut by RZA was over four hours long and he was tasked by Eli Roth to trim the end product to a friendlier running time. It could be this reason why “The Man with the Iron Fists” ended up with such subpar result. That aside, though it didn’t reach Tarantino kind of epic at least we had a lot of fun with this homage. Perhaps getting a few more Shaw veterans such as Ti Lung and Lau Kar Leung might do the trick. Then again, we doubt so. 

Movie Rating:  

(Cheesy silly homage to the grand old martial-art films of your dad’s generation)

Review by Linus Tee

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