Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: The Man with the Iron Fists

What do you call a movie starring a past-his-prime Academy Award winner, a WWE pro wrestler, one of the biggest divas in Hollywood, a former MTV Real World star, the guy who played Ryu in the Street Fighter movie, and the worst actor to ever appear in The Fast and Furious franchise, all working under the direction of a member of the Wu-Tang Clan?  I call it a bad idea and the folks at Universal decided to call it The Man with the Iron Fist.

I knew what I was in for the first time I saw the trailer – a cheap rip off of the Asian martial arts film genre only with weaker writing and less credible acting.  And that’s precisely what you get in this movie, which tells the tale of a freed slave turned blacksmith who finds himself in the middle of a fight between different regional factions over a small fortune in emperor’s gold.  Added to the mix are assassins/prostitutes, a man who turns into metal (seriously), and a revenge-seeking blade-wielding son.  Not included in this mix is any semblance of legitimate storytelling.

So let me not mince words here as I get into nitty gritty of what is wrong with this movie.  It is a farcical, narcissistic, self-indulgent journey into the fantasyland of a man/child stuck in his teen years.  Caricatures, stereotypes, and walking embellishments populate the plot and act out a series of nonsensical moves that result in sexual and violent delusions of grandeur under the guise of fortune cookie philosophy.  Writer Eli Roth hits a new all-time low with this script and first-time feature director RZA follows that up by making sure that nothing credible makes it onto the big screen.

As for the cast, there is a lot of blame to go around and no shortage of culprits.  Russell Crowe (of Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind fame) for some inexplicable reason appears in this film and seems content to flaunt his ego and gut for the duration of the movie with very little regard for his craft.  Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, and Byron Mann have never shown themselves to be gifted in the acting department so kudos to them for keeping their respective streaks of ineptitude intact.  Jamie Chung and Dave Bautista are in this film as a beauty and a beast respectively and they both fit the bill about as well as can be expected from any D-level reality star and a WWE wrestling washout. 

Despite all this, the biggest piece of the blame pie has to go to RZA.  If you want to not only direct, but also cast yourself as the lead in a movie, you had better be able to wear at least one of those hats really well.  But as a first time director and someone whose recent acting credits include such illustrious roles as the unnamed Airport Screener in Due Date, he does not put himself in a position to succeed.  We’ve recently seen what success looks like as a director/lead in a feature film with Ben Affleck’s work in Argo, and RZA and his work in The Man with the Iron Fists is the polar opposite. 

So what you have in this film is a bad plot, amateurish dialogue, mediocre cinematography, run-of-the-mill fight choreography, and very little entertainment value.  The whole film feels like someone gave a bunch of money to a twenty years old kid to make a movie and let him run amuck.  My guess is that you could probably pluck anyone from a cinema school class, give them a camera, a Mac, and $50K and end up with a more entertaining film.  So it should come as no surprise to you that I am not recommending this movie unless you have an annoying houseguest staying with you who refuses to leave.  Playing this film on a continuous loop should do the trick.  Here’s hoping RZA goes back to making music and everyone in this film not named Russell Crowe buys a winning Power Ball ticket and decides to retire from acting.  One can only hope…

Standout Performance: Everyone who did not contribute to the $18M worldwide that this movie grossed theatrically.  Kudos to you for exercising great sense.


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