Movie Review: Man with the Iron Fists- Rza’s Conceptual and Creative Mess of a Throwback Kung Fu Movie That is Inconsistent, Bland, and Unbalanced

The name Rza might be recognizable to some because of a long career on the rap scene as the head of the Wu Tang Clan but it certainly isn’t a name you would expect to see at the head of a movie. A common story of rapper turned actor, Rza has been making his way in the film world securing roles in such films as Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, Judd Apatow’s Funny People, and even nailed a recurring appearance on Showtime’s “Californication.” However, the idea of him becoming a writer and director was a leap no one could have expected or would even positively imagine, and for good reason. His debut film Man with the Iron Fists, aided in the writing by Hostel director Eli Roth, is a densely flat homage to the 70s Kung Fu movies that Rza loves and considers himself a devoted fan. Just because you’re a fan of movies doesn’t mean you’re qualified or should even attempt to make one because that takes practice, intuition, and above all a good sense of continuity, either in tone or story. What results in Rza’s directorial debut is a schizophrenic illogical mess of a movie that is gratingly boring when it rests from the excessively violent and overplayed action sequences. Despite its potential to be an exaggerated, tongue in cheek homage/parody to 70s Kung Fu movies for all to enjoy it’s a film that is clearly made for one audience member and that is Rza himself.

To try and summarize Man with the Iron Fists would be a validation that the film actually possessed coherency, so it shouldn’t even be bothered. It’s an hour and a half mess of typical character archetypes that follows around six or more different characters or clans that are introduced without reason and without much regard for audience clarification as though it was a story being told by a six year old playing with his legos. Man with the Iron Fists is one of those movies that reek of amateurish self-gratification or something that is more suited for a YouTube passion project not worth consideration for a 15 million budget. But Rza isn’t your average debut filmmaker because he made friends with the right people, specifically Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and Russell Crowe. It appears having connections is valued higher in Hollywood than the ability to even write a standard coherent script that doesn’t contain horrifically flat dialogue or two dimensional characters with adaptable motivations for convenience. You know a script is flawed in its priorities when it takes a 20 minute deviation to explain why there is a black man in China while at the same time not caring to explain why a man can turn his skin into full protective bronze. And when there is a lackluster script there needs to be a skilled director at the helm to salvage any redeemable qualities but what results in style is dueling tones and horrific pacing that makes the film a laughable and almost unbearable experience.

Obviously Rza only wanted to make Man with the Iron Fists so he could direct and make his own Kung Fu fighting sequences because everything that doesn’t contain violence or ridiculous choreography is treated with passionless attention. Practically every actor, besides Russell Crowe, delivers their lines with questionable believability and bland emphasis suggesting that Rza’s ability to recognize a good performance is also questionable. It should be noted that directing yourself in a film is an incredibly difficult task that can only be delivered with grace by the likes of Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, or Kenneth Branagh who know what they’re doing and have a quality assistant director in their corner. But even the action sequences aren’t as entertaining or as humorously violent as should be expected in this kind of exaggerated film. In the end the violence becomes so tiresome and predictable that the intended shock or humor value becomes just as pointless as the movie itself. Ultimately Man with the Iron Fists is a film that could have been entertaining in the right hands and clearly as director Rza didn’t understand how to remain consistent in tone (preferably exaggerated tongue in cheek), believable with his character portraits, and didn’t know how to balance intense action with pauses for drama and dialogue.

Probably the most recognizably successful part of Man with the Iron Fists is the choreographed fighting, which has high flying acrobatics complimented with gruesomely bloody executions. But here there is a limit to its impressiveness because as the film goes along the sequences remind us less of Croaching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Enter the Dragon and actually begin to remind us more of the ridiculousness of Big Trouble in Little China or The Last Dragon. The ridiculousness or the exaggerated style wouldn’t have been a negative issue if it weren’t for the horrid pacing of the story, the numb narration, or the bland delivery of the dialogue. Of course the action sequences are entertaining but the whole experience begins to wear you down as soon as you realize that there is little to no character motivation involved in any sequence. Things happen just for the sake of their happening because Rza had a clear focus on making and being part of some throwback Kung Fu sequences. If that were the case he should have entrusted a majority of the writing to a capable screenwriter (and no, Eli Roth doesn’t come to mind as one) and a director who could balance the dueling aspects of the film, action and story.  Instead what we’re left with is a laughably bad (and not the good kind) Kung Fu movie and an insult to aspiring filmmakers who know every cent of this movie could have been placed in better hands.

Man with the Iron Fists might be Rza’s first feature and it will most likely not be his last. We can hope that with experience, with discipline, and with time that he will mature as a potential filmmaker because it would be tragic to be given more films such as this lazy and complete fanboy attempt at homage to 70s Kung Fu movies. The subject matter wasn’t the problem and neither was the excessive violence but instead it was the absence of a practiced storyteller who has even just a college freshmen level understanding of character, three plot structure, and tonal continuity for flow. Rza’s directorial debut was possible because he made the right connections but conceptually and creatively it was an abysmal failure. What could have been an incredibly witty stylistic parody of Kung Fu movies became an excuse for self-gratification. If Rza was a true fan of the Bruce Lee era or John Woo era of Kung Fu movies then he would have had more respect for the genre then to release this choppy, flat, and inconsistent film. One can only hope that he will mature as a filmmaker but that is a tall order when Hollywood only offers short glasses.

Grade: D+

3 Responses to “Movie Review: Man with the Iron Fists- Rza’s Conceptual and Creative Mess of a Throwback Kung Fu Movie That is Inconsistent, Bland, and Unbalanced”
  1. Ja be says:

    Racist review jews starters of racism love to Say black

  2. Ja be says:

    Racist jew say blackman and wit out saying white Devil in China. your opinion is just hateful. Not giving the other players ANY credit(Chinese actors and actress) or their advisors; the industry of films!The film was released! Word

    • octavarium08 says:

      Congratulations…you have given the movie slightly more credibility by giving a more incoherent rant then the film plot line.

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