Quentin Tarantino presents The Man with the Iron Fists, an epic action adventure inspired by classic kung fu movies. When the emperor’s gold is hijacked, every kung fu warrior, assassin and hired gun in China will battle to claim the fortune. Starring Academy Award winner Russell Crowe, RZA, and Lucy Liu, The Man with the Iron Fists Unrated Extended Edition includes jaw-dropping martial arts action that you couldn’t see in theaters. Also starring Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le and Byron Mann.
It's no exaggeration to say that martial arts movies have informed The RZA's entire professional career, with his work with The Wu-Tang Clan, his solo projects, and his soundtracks for folks like Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino all displaying a pure and abiding love for the genre. (His commentary track on the DVD of the classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin is a profoundly geeky thing of beauty.) The Man with the Iron Fists, in which RZA directs, writes, does the music, and stars as the title character, is unquestionably a vanity project of the first degree--the sort of thing that occasionally feels like watching someone else's home movie, albeit one that can afford to bring in Russell Crowe. Here, however, the filmmaker's passion for the source material is intense enough that it transcends a mere ego trip to become something like the chopsocky equivalent of Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.: the work of a man so besmitten by the genre that he'd go to any length to get inside the screen. Trimmed down from an initial four-hour cut, the story (cowritten by Eli Roth) follows a humble blacksmith tasked with making weapons for a number of warring animal-themed clans, including Lions, Jackals, Wolves, and, as seen for a few delirious moments, Birds. After suffering a grievous insult to his person, the blacksmith teams up with a drunken cowboy (Crowe, channeling Oliver Reed) and a shady brothel owner (Lucy Liu) to set things right. Everything that can possibly get chopped in half, does. Movies designed to be The Coolest Thing Ever often have pacing problems, and the momentum here does flag a bit in the second act, particularly during a lengthy flashback that feels like an untethered remnant from the original cut. (Pam Grier and martial arts legend Gordon Liu do make appearances, so it's not a total loss.) Things rebound in a big way for the finale, however, as each good guy gets the opportunity to have a lavish solo battle with a hissable villain, with choreography provided by the legendary Corey Yuen. As is his right, the star gives himself the best fight scene, throwing down with David Bautista, a gargantua of a man who appears to have swallowed a coat hanger immediately before filming. Viewers unfamiliar with the genre may find themselves scratching their heads, but for those in the know, RZA's palpable glee at re-creating the spot-on shaky zooms and exaggerated death rattles from the classics makes The Man with the Iron Fists almost as much fun to watch as it must have been to make. If you had a chance to make a movie where you got to punch people through walls, you'd do it too. --Andrew Wright
2016 in art & collectibles