After seeing the Quentin Tarantino-produced, RZA and Eli Roth-written and RZA-directed grindhouse martial arts film The Man With the Iron Fists, I can say without a doubt that it is neither any better, nor is it any worse than I expected. Taking off from the classic Shaw Brothers martial arts films, RZA and crew give their film a decidedly up-to-date feel, replete with a soundtrack featuring RZA, Wiz Khalifa, The Black Keys, Kanye West, and several of the director's old Wu-Tang Clan cronies, but in the end it just seems all a bit too rushed, all a bit too hurried through, for with which to have any real fun. Sad really, because it is one of those films that, under the right circumstances, could have been a real brouhaha blast of a good time.
Now the film isn't a total failure. It does have its share of moments mind you. Russell Crowe's antics as the wonderfully named Jack Knife, the apparent love child of the man with no name and Hattori Hanzo, is one of these said highlights. Kill Bill alum Lucy Liu as Madame Blossom, kick-ass head of the town brothel, is another. Former MMA and WWE champ David Bautista as a metallic-bodied assassin (think Peter Rasputin in 1840's China - the true nerds in the crowd know of what I speak), who will inevitable come down to a final showdown with the titular hero, is the other. But even these three are left wanting as they have too little to do in a film that is otherwise overstuffed with overused cliche's and mediocre, been-there done-that kind of fight sequences that are not bad per se, but just sadly ordinary. And do not get me started on RZA's performance as escaped slave turned blacksmith turned reluctant hero. A performance so laden with his thick ghetto accent that it reminds one of Harvey Kietel's Brooklynese turn as Judas Iscariot in Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ.
I am sure with Tarantino's name prominently displayed where everyone can see it like a latter day Grindhouse-loving Frank Capra, many may have gone into this with what can only be called inevitably crushed high hopes. As I lead with, I was not so foolish as to expect Kill Bill 3, or even anything in the ballpark of something like From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete or even something akin to The Raid: Redemption, so I was not as disappointed as many others most assuredly were upon leaving their respective theaters. But still, even with a handful of pretty spectacular looking moments, the film is ultimately a disappointment. As if RZA really has no direction in his direction, the film rushes through the story with an unnecessary breakneck speed - not because the film is trying to be non-stop action but because the film really has no idea where it is going. But then, one really should not expect anything more than what one gets with this film. Good thing I did not.