The RZA is a man with a lot on his resume’ and with The Man With The Iron Fists, he adds writer, director and star. Fists is a Tarantino-esque mash up of 70s Shaw Brothers kung fu, 80s/90s Hong Kong martial arts epic, 70s blaxploitation and a touch of Spaghetti Western. Too bad RZA is no Quentin Tarantino because, had this film fired on all intended cylinders, it would have been a real blast. RZA’s heart and intentions are in the right place for this story of a runaway slave (RZA) who finds himself shipwrecked in China and now plying trade as a much sought after blacksmith. When he and his prostitute girlfriend, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) get caught in the middle of a clan war over gold, an act of violence transforms him into the vengeful Man WIth The Iron Fists. The real problem here is that the film has far too slow a pace for this kind of flick and has far too much set up, causing it to take way too long to get going. Once it does, it is somewhat entertaining but, RZA doesn’t give his flick the delirious fun that Tarantino gives his genre mash ups and he just doesn’t capture the kind of energy the plentiful action scenes need. The film seems a lot longer then it’s 90+ minutes would suggest. Fists has some colorful characters such as Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), Lady Blossom (Lucy Liu) and Brass Body (Dave Batista) but, none of the characters really stand out or are given enough screen time to make an impression. There is a bit of character overload here and the main characters suffer for it. That and only Crowe and Liu really have any acting chops, the rest go from adequate to bland. Add to it that the final showdown between the good, the bad and the ugly never resonates or has the impact it should. With all the time it took to get to this point, the climactic battle seems to be over far too quick. Still the film looks great and RZA’s Martial Arts film influences are evident with the sets, costumes and camera angles. There is some good gore but, a bit too much reliance on CGI considering the films it was trying to emulate and the simple effects they employed. But, despite it’s flaws, if you are a fan of those types of movies, there is some entertainment to be had and you can appreciate what RZA was trying to do, even if not totally successful. Not a complete failure but, far less entertaining then it should have been considering what the multi-tasking RZA set out to do.
2 and 1/2 stars