Friday, November 16, 2012

Not Quite There: The Man With The Iron Fists

Going For It:
  • Fairly bloody
  • Doesn't take itself too seriously
  • Created by a true kung-fu film devotee
  • It might convince some people to dig deeper and find a really good kung-fu movie?
  • RZA
The Case Against:
  • So quick of a pace that most of the movie fails to keep up
  • Half of a movie, that should be a trilogy, masquerading as whole
  • Not enough cameos
  • Not enough true kung-fu film fighting
  • RZA
MMG Says:

RZA is a beautiful, beautiful man.  He has legitimately changed the landscape of music from his Wu-Tang days.  We are not going to take anyone seriously who says otherwise.  He was a delight in his Jim Jarmusch acting roles and on Chappelle's Show.  He is also a real, true fan of kung-fu movies, and seems to take from them the best of what there is to take from them. However:

1) He should NOT be an acting lead under any circumstances other than a Bobby Digital road movie or something like that

2) It is questionable whether he should be directing anything (jury's still out for the moment)

3) While it's possible to tell that he's a true fan of kung-fu movies, the fighting has more in common with any 2000s-era generic action film than anything from Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest

So what is left from a kung-fu movie that only allows shadowy glimpses of wire work and fighting styles named after animals and eschews balletic orchestrated bouts of fisticuffs?  Plenty... in fact, way too much.  This movie has some brilliant ideas behind it, and some very colorful characters.  Having a town run by animal-based clans that are constantly warring? Fantastic!  But why not actually show them really having it out against each other?  And why tease us with a fucking bird man if you're only going to show him for 15 seconds?!  The Gemini Killers? Great, old-school idea.  But how about a little hint of backstory?!  Brass Body?  Very cool.  But maybe throw us a fucking bone about how he turns into metal.  Oh, and Lucy Liu's cadre? A nice bit of an admittedly inconsequential twist... except that we have no idea why they are doing the twisting!  Explain shit to us!

Here's the problem: this movie was mangled.  It's unclear if this is a RZA or Eli Roth problem, notes from the studio, or the result of test audiences imposing their ADHD all over the place.  What is clear is that RZA and Roth were unsure they'd every have the opportunity again to take the studio money and run with a martial arts movie... so they crammed it with dozens of great ideas and characters and moments, and sensible Western updates to countless classic kung-fu tropes.  Whether though it found its way to the cutting room floor, or just the pink butt end of a pencil during a rewrite, there is another half of a movie lurking around somewhere.  Everything was just so partially conceived or poorly explained that there is no doubt in our mind that the explanation exists somewhere.  This is not a case of depicting archetypes and scenarios from old school movies and we're just expected to go with it; it is very apparent just from the pacing and certain ineffable qualities that what we are watching is not whole.  Hell, this is likely 3 or 4 movies even... and what we are left with is a tame smile, a couple chuckles, and an empty feeling as to how this movie really could have been and meant something.


P.S. We hate to be a broken record.  This site isn't called the Titty Movie Guide or anything.  But how the hell is it that much of the movie takes place in a brothel, and there is an extended scene of multiple couples having sex, and we don't get so much as one single boob or butt cheek?  This movie has numerous spurting decapitations... they couldn't finagle one damn nipple?!

P.P.S. The ad campaign of having multiple hip and unconventional posters was a great idea.  We think this might be one of the best movie posters we've ever seen:

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