Sunday 17 December 2017

Russell rules movie with an iron first

Paul Whitington

The man with the Iron Fists

(16, general release, 95 minutes)

Director: RZA Stars: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Jamie Chung, Rick Yune


An affectionately gory homage to the Kung Fu B-movies of the 1970s, The Man with the Iron Fists is the brainchild of Brooklyn rapper and Wu-Tang Clan star RZA, who directs and stars as an enigmatic blacksmith who goes by the name of, well, Blacksmith.

RZA also co-wrote the script, but the fact that he did so with Eli Roth, and that Quentin Tarantino's name pops up early in the credits should give you a good idea of what you're in for.

In 19th-century China, the oddly named settlement of Jungle Village is plagued by violent conflicts between rival gangs. When a high-kicking thug called Silver Lion (Byron Mann) kills the leader of the Lion Clan and takes his place, he sets out to steal a stash of government gold.

But other gangs have their eye on the gold too, so Silver Lion engages the services of the town's blacksmith.

Blacksmith is known far and wide for his skill in weapon-making, but soon gets caught in the middle of the Lion Clan's war with its rivals.

When he falls foul of Silver Lion, he finds unlikely allies in English soldier of fortune Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) and Zen-Yi (Rick Yune), the son of the Lion Clan's murdered leader.

When not attacking each other, the men of Jungle Village seek solace in the cathouse, a glamorous venue run by Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu).

Muddled, silly and needlessly unpleasant, The Man with the Iron Fists is mildly objectionable and trenchantly misogynistic.

Women are collectable trinkets, to be pleasured in baroque orgies (the sex in this film looks much more exhausting than the fighting) then cast aside, or killed. RZA contributes an impenetrable voiceover, and has all the charisma of a frozen fencepost.

Only Russell Crowe is worth watching: looking portly and rather pleased with himself, he plays his British mercenary like a cross between Falstaff and the Marquis de Sade, and stands magnificently apart, an A-list star picking his way skillfully through a hopelessly incompetent B-picture.

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