The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/11/12
Written And Directed By: RZA
Martial Arts Choreography: Corey Yuen
Cast: RZA, Russell Crowe, Rick Yune, Lucy Liu, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Byron Mann, Andrew Lin, Grace Huang, Daniel Wu, cameos by Gordon Liu (Lau Kar Fai, Liu Chia Hui), Chen Kwan Tai, Leung Ka-Yan, Pam Grier

An ambitious kung fu homage that aims high, but falls flat due to weak direction and immature sensibilities. RZA is a gifted blacksmith in a Chinese village, saving up his money to buy Lady Silk's (Jamie Chung) freedom from the Pink Blossom brothel, which is run by a ruthless Lucy Liu. Unfortunately, a shipment of Imperial gold is coming through the town, which attracts a lot of unwanted attention from various warring clans. Silver Lion (Byron Mann) stirs up trouble and kills the leader of the Lion Clan, which pulls Golden Lion's son, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), into the fray. Meanwhile, a mysterious foreigner named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) comes into town with a secret agenda, a flair for violence, and an appetite for kinky sex. With their eyes set on the gold, the various opposing parties all clash at the Pink Blossom and much blood is spilt.

It's such a shame to see something with so much going for it go completely wrong. While RZA does a decent job as an actor, he falters as a writer and director. The film looks great (although often out of focus), the sets and costumes are fantastic, and the compositions are thoughtful and colorful, but the cinematography and editing are poor. Corey Yuen's fight scenes are well staged, but again, horribly edited. And not surprisingly, the music is inappropriate and appallingly awful. It's a real treat to see veterans Gordon Liu, Chen Kwan Tai, and Leung Ka-Yan onscreen again, however brief it may be. It lends a sense of dignity and credibility to the production, and proves that the filmmakers are fans and did their homework. The ladies are unspeakably gorgeous, and Jamie Chung is surprisingly sexy. Beautiful Grace Huang also delights as a female assassin. Lucy Liu continues to demonstrate that she's a terrible actress, but she has a strong physical presence and her action scenes are well executed. Russell Crowe is excellent as the maniacal Jack, and you have to wonder how he ever got involved in the project. Unfortunately, the villains are simple-minded idiots with goofy hair, and a cocky Byron Mann plays it mostly for laughs, which spoils the otherwise serious tone of the film. Again, with so much greatness involved, it's disappointing to see it all fall apart in the editing room, and it would have benefited greatly in more careful and experienced hands.