Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Today I'm looking at a very special movie. Because you can't spell Kung Fu... without F and U. Know what else can't be spelled without those letters? FUN.


I was aware of the existence of this movie for most of the past year, but I wasn't planning on watching it. Reviews generally panned it, and the consensus seemed to be that (Wu-Tang Clan alumni turned actor/director) The RZA's martial arts magnum opus wasn't up to snuff.

Then I watched Californication, which is pretty much the most entertaining show of the past few years. It ain't Breaking Bad, but it's just entertaining as hell, and you can't take that away from me.

Well, season five of Californication features The RZA in a major role for the whole season, as...himself, more or less. His goal? To get the writer/lady-pleasurer main character to write a martial arts epic that he's going to direct and star in. After realizing that he actually DID make a movie like this in real life, I had no choice but to check it out.

 We begin with some kind of friendly sparring match in the den of the Lion Clan while Wu-Tang's "Shame on a Nigga" plays.

Or as white people call it, "Shame on a... uh... you know... I'll just play it on youtube"

It's a catchy song, indeed. It's also the weirdest musical choice for a scene. It's like if The Terminator shot up the police station while "Tubthumper" played. Though at least then things would make a little bit of sense lyrically, because he does get frequently knocked down, then get up again, you're never gonna keep him down.

 That said... it kinda works. The grimaces and the ridiculousness of this scene actually go well with the song. Though they'd go well with a lot of songs. Like "Tubthumper".

 I guess it wasn't such a friendly spar because THAT GUY JUST RIPPED OFF THE OTHER GUY'S ARMS

 FATALITY.

 Another guy protests, so the Lion Clan throws him outside where he's attacked by clearly-superimposed dogs in what has to be the lowest point of the whole movie special-effects wise.

More over-bloody brutality as we find out who is responsible for this thus-far nonsensical bloodbath.

 From there we go to the peaceful town of... Jungle Village. Well, like all of the characters in the movie, it is simply-named. To the point, I suppose. Jungle Village is home to our cast of characters, including Lady Silk, Madam Blossom, Brass Body, and Silver Lion. There are also people with normal names mixed in, weirdly enough.

 Here's The RZA. He's a blacksmith. ...A black blacksmith.

::canned laugh track is heard::

But seriously, that's his name. Blacksmith. To the point, again.

 Here's Blacksmith's impossibly-hot girlfriend, Lady Silk, who works in a brothel. She looks...very familiar. I've seen her in something else, but I'm not sure what.

To quote Blacksmith, she's a.... ::deep breath:: ...worker.

Well, that figures. Rappers do love to have relationships with strippers. WWE Superstar John Cena once told Howard Stern that his best sex ever was with a pair of strippers, so maybe the rappers are onto something.

Here's the leader of the Lion Clan, the presumably-benevolent Gold Lion. On the left is the vile Silver Lion, on the right is the... kinda-nondescript Bronze Lion. Not pictured are Copper Lion, Wood Lion, Tin Lion, Plastic Lion, Rubber Lion, and Snoop Lion.

 Long story short... Silver Lion has Gold Lion killed, and now he's the leader of the clan, with Bronze Lion his second-in-command. No word on if Silver Lion now gets bumped up to Gold Lion. That'd make Bronze Lion the new Silver Lion, and... uh... Wood Lion or something would get a sweet rank upgrade and finally achieve his dream of being a metal.

 Unfortunately for them, here's Gold Lion's son. He's Zen Yi the X-Blade, and the rightful heir to the Gold Lion title. Ah, so it's inherited rather than a promotion. Here he takes time out of making out with his impossibly hot girlfriend when he learns that his father has been killed. It's The Lion King all over again.

Also... this guy? He has "protagonist" written all over him. I thought RZA was the protagonist, but we've barely seen him yet. Rest assured, it'll come together.

 The third possible-protagonist is Russell Crowe's character, the stylish Jack.

...Jack Knife.

No, for real.

As a European gentleman, he loves the whores. So he goes to Madam Blossom's whorehouse as soon as he arrives in Jungle Village, demanding alcohol and three of their finest.

"Only three?" asks Madam Blossom, as if daring him.

 This guy is a lot like Christoph Waltz's character in Django Unchained. He's the ultra-cool sidekick with ambiguous, but ultimately good, intentions; he can kick some serious ass while being super-polite about it.

 Meanwhile, The RZA shows... excitement? upon seeing Lady Silk. I gotta say, this guy has no discernable emotions, one of the weaknesses of this movie.

 At this point they're pretty much just killing time while the plot slowly comes together. I suspect this movie would be better on a re-watch when everything makes sense.

 By the way, this is also his O-Face.

Meanwhile,  Zen Yi battles the minions of the Lion Clan in the woods, having several close brushes with death. I was certain that he was going to bite the dust since he pretty much came out of nowhere as the protagonist, but he survives everything they throw at him.

 Silver Lion quickly becomes unhinged when he discovers Zen Yi is on the way. The confrontation is imminent...

 ...but first, more whoring, as Jack Knife flirts with Lady Blossom. He then goes down on a cute girl in a bathtub. So he has underwater breathing abilities? Who is this sorcerer?

 We get some Lesbian Bondage Action as my girlfriend, who I watched this with, gets excited.

Meanwhile, Jack Knife (snicker) gets drunk and decides to go play find the submarine with the girl in the bathtub some more.

 WHOA HOLD THAT THOUGHT IT'S BATISTA.

 Batista is Silver Lion's baddest minion, the aptly-named Brass Body. He's basically The Terminator, because his body is somehow made of metal. Regular punches and kicks have no effect on him, and weapons usually just break against him.

 We get some gratuitous leg as we return yet again to Crowe's Whorehouse Adventure.

 "We're going to play a game," he says as he brandishes some kind of dildo. "It's called...let's pretend we're Catholic."

Meanwhile, The RZA shares a tender moment with Lady Silk as they talk about the turning of the world and their love or something. Then he immediately switches gears and asks if they can get Madam Blossom in here for a threesome. Where did that come from? This script is bizarre.

 Brass Batista has found Zen Yi, and announces his presence by gouging out a man's throat in front of our hero. Yikes.

 Batista with a POWERBOMB! He just murdered that guy!

 Zen Yi's fight with Brass Body doesn't go well for him. It's quite a fight, though. Batista manages to kill basically all of Zen Yi's buddies, and Zen Yi himself sustains some massive wounds.

 They finally manage to stop Batista for a minute by DROPPING A HOUSE ON HIM.

 Blacksmith finds Zen Yi and brings him inside to try and fix him up. Ah, the story is coming together now.

 Meanwhile, Jack Knife gets his eyebrows painted by giggling geisha.

 Another seemingly out-of-nowhere scene, as Silver Lion deals with his rivals the Gemini Twins. These two... are not twins. The girl is impossibly hot, for one thing, while the guy looks like her dad.

 After Silver Lion calls her a pussycat, a fight scene erupts. This battle is straight out of Dynasty Warriors, as the Gemini Twins take on the entire Lion Clan at once with sweeping attacks.

They bust out some pretty rad two-person luchadore moves. All in all, I was into this scene. Not bad at all.

The villainous Silver Lion himself finally sees some action, as he charges into battle with his vicious silver claws.

Ultimately, the Gemini Twins lose after being shot up with poison darts, and yet another enemy of the Lion Clan has fallen.

 Meanwhile, the mysterious Governor (who we never really see much of) sends his army to Jungle Village to stop the Lion Clan, since they're stealing from the government. If need be, the army is instructed to burn Jungle Village to the ground. So now we have some very real stakes for the whole cast if the bad guys aren't stopped before the military gets there.

 When Zen Yi wakes up, Blacksmith talks to him about the situation. It seems that Blacksmith forged the weapon that killed Gold Lion, and now he feels like he owes a debt to Gold Lion's son here. So these two are now on the same page.

 ...but what of Jack Knife?

 Blacksmith begins forging some weapons for Zen Yi, thinking this is his best route to redeeming himself.

 Speaking of weapons, we learn why Jack's name is Knife, as he has a pretty sweet knife of his own. It's built into a revolver, and it spins. Very deadly. He's reminding me more and more of the guy from Django.

 Blacksmith does his best Assassin's Creed as he prowls the alleyways. There's a George Zimmerman joke here, but I'm not going to make it.

 Mainly because what follows is a super-uncomfortable scene where Batista and goons beat the absolute shit out of Blacksmith in an effort to find out where Zen Yi is.

 Silver Lion offers Blacksmith a job working for them. All he has to do is give up Zen Yi... and give up on being with his girlfriend. Wait, why does he have to give up on being with her? That's weird.

I don't know if it was on purpose, but they did a great job with this particular shot. Blacksmith is in a Christ-like pose, being tempted by the Luciferian Silver Lion (who is illuminated by fire to drive home the point).

 Things get worse from there, as Batista CHOPS OFF BLACKSMITH'S HANDS.

This enhanced interrogation torture is hard to watch.

 They leave him for dead. Who finds him there but Jack Knife, who takes care of him.

 We get an extended flashback to how Blacksmith used to be a slave in the United States. I wonder what the timeframe is on this movie?

 He gets his freedom from his owner as the owner passes away. Unfortunately, the other white guys on the plantation don't plan on following through on the owner's wishes, so they beat our hero down. How much does this guy need to get beaten in the span of ten minutes?

 He escapes, and eventually washes ashore in the Far East where he is found by monks.

 He spends some time training under the most formidable of masters...

 ...MUTEN ROSHI. Seen here looking more like Roshi than he did in Dragonball Evolution. Man that movie sucked.

 Our special guest star teaches Blacksmith the ways of the Kung Fu.

 Back to the present, he enlists the help of monks to forge himself new arms...somehow. They're made of iron and filled with ki energy, or something along those lines.

 Now he can shatter boulders with a mere punch.

It's So Bad.

Now all three of our protagonists are united in one place, 75% of the way through the movie. They have one common goal: Take out the Lion Clan before the Governor's army arrives.

 Meanwhile, Madam Blossom fondles a statue's nether-regions to open a nearby gateway.

 Bronze Lion is disgusted.

 Silver Lion, who is absolutely one of the best characters in this movie, snickers a bit. They're forcing Blossom to let them take up residence in the heavily-defendable basement of the whorehouse.

I tend to find the villains the most interesting about 80% of the time, and this movie falls into that category. Silver Lion's actor is extremely charismatic, and his brash attitude was a lot of fun to watch even though he's a complete asshole.

The bad guys scheme... the good guys scheme... there's a lot of scheming going on.

 The Governor's troops draw near! Command?

 Meanwhile, it's Bathtime In The Brothel. There are lots of "hee hee!" and "ooh" sounds, which my viewing accomplice assured me is not how women actually sound when they bathe.

 Unf.

 Madam Blossom is here to inform the women that it is time for them to Become Megazord. Wait, what?

 Just like that, they're all decked out in assassin garb and ready to kick ass as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme plays...or not, but it should have.

I did NOT SEE THAT COMING. The idea is that they're going to catch the Lion Clan by surprise and kill all of them. So their gigglefest was all an act, eh?

This imminent collision of various factions reminds me of the end of True Romance.

 Unfortunately, Lady Silk has a very scary visitor.

 Brass Body has decided that It's Raping Time. Well, Blacksmith should be arriving any time now...

 ...nope. Not only does he have his way with her, afterwards when she stabs him it has no effect.

 She's shocked at his metal body, and doesn't know how to react. Then he beats her down. Yikes.

 Meanwhile, the army of harem-assassins dish out BLADED SCARVES to slice through the Lion Clan as their ambush continues.

 Zen Yi has arrived, and battles through a crowd of Lion Clan troops as they rise into the air in slow-mo. This is totally Dynasty Warriors...

 COOL POSE as the corpses continue to rise in slow-mo with their blood trails suspended in the air. Greatest shot in the entire movie. Just a wonder to behold.

 Jack Knife also takes out goons with his knife-revolver as the final bloodbath soldiers on. Good times.

 Blacksmith finds his girlfriend as she dies. First Batista takes his arms, now Batista kills his girlfriend? ...well, I knew she was probably dead the moment she showed up onscreen. That's the kind of movie this is. Not big on surprises.

 The Governor's army continues to draw near! Command?

 Blacksmith finally fights, blocking enemy attacks with his iron fists. Awesome.

 Madam Blossom fights Bronze Lion and manages to kill him with some help from the harem, though she also bites it during the melee. She basically became the fourth hero during this section... between that and the women turning out to be assassins, this movie turned out to be less of a men's club than it looked like for the first 90%.

 Zen Yi has an interesting fight with Silver Lion in a hall of mirrors, as Silver Lion attempts to slash him with his claws. Wait a minute... is this a reference to Claw Man from Enter the Dragon?

 Of course, Zen Yi wins, because he's the hero.

 Gold Lion is avenged, and the super-cool villain meets an unfortunate end. That guy was a charisma machine.

 Meanwhile, Blacksmith literally uppercuts a goon's head off as a fountain of blood shoots out.

FATALITY.

Zen Yi and Silver Lion may have been the primary "good guy" and "bad guy" in this movie, but in Tarantino fashion the main event goes to their seemingly less-archetypical accomplices.

 Blacksmith Vs. Brass Body is a good fight, primarily because it's the first time anyone can actually do anything to Batista in this movie. The ki-powered iron fists actually dent The Terminator.

 Blacksmith finishes him with some kind of whirlwind punch that causes Brass Body to explode into bits.

FATALITY.

Oh, the Governor's army has arrived. This guy is about to give the order to incinerate Jungle Village (seriously? Just to weed out a group of bad guys? Isn't that overkill?) when our heroes walk out all "no need, we already took care of it".

 And everyone lives happily ever after. Except Blacksmith, who has metal arms and the trauma of losing his girlfriend (presumably... again, RZA doesn't display much by way of emotions).

Jack Knife finally puts on some real clothes, though. So at least there's that.

 We get some BAD-ASS 70's Kung Fu movie style end credits.

I wonder if this is the "Kung Fu movie" that Christian Slater was watching in the theater in True Romance. Since all Tarantino movies are supposedly connected. Not sure how much of a role Tarantino really had with this one, though.

Rather than a post-credits scene, we get a during-credits MOVIE that goes on and on, revealing that the nefarious Eagle Clan is now spoiling for a fight. Or something like that. It's sequel-bait.

So what's the verdict on this movie? It isn't very good, but it isn't exactly bad either. Matter of fact, it was entertaining and a general fun time. I recommend it. I'd recommend it more if I knew for sure whether or not it was intentionally going for comedy during the "bad" parts, however... hard to tell how self-aware this movie really is.

6 comments:

  1. Best Power Glove Reference Ever.
    Linking identical Mortal Kombat scenes was genius, too.
    It's not a film I'll watch (time too limited), but it richly deserved this Corona Jumper review, and it's great to see a Black man heading a kung fu flick.

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  2. I'm not the least bit interested in seeing this movie, but this was a hell of a write-up. Well played....well played.

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  3. I'm gonna break the mold here and say this looks entertaining enough to actually watch. ...what was up with those dogs though?

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  4. hahaha the superimposed dogs! That alone makes me want to see this...I was wondering why he was "the man with the iron fists" and now I know. I have not seen this yet. And, while I was sure it was pretty bad, I wasn't sure if it was entertaining at all. Reading your post makes me think it is actually worth watching.

    And Batista? I had no clue he was in this haha. Another reason to watch it for sure

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  5. Pretty good review. I rate this movie much more highly as a Wu Tang fan who has been waiting since the 90s for any of them to drop some kung fu cinema.

    True, sleepy-eyed RZA doesn't act much. And I hate CGI bloodspatter. But I thought this was a devoted homage to the spirit of the 70s kung fu flick, right down to the cheesy names and predictable plots.

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    1. I agree, this movie is probably worth watching even though I made it seem like a joke. It's a bit campy for sure but it's a fun time.

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