'The Man With The Iron Fists' a pleasurable mess
Shot on location in China, ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’ is an intentionally overblown martial arts romp, which harks back to the classics of the genre.
It’s a clumsy and often garish homage that doesn’t allow a sloppy script, wayward performances or an incongruous soundtrack of R&B and hip-hop to distract from the bone-crunching thrills and spills.
Actors fly around the screen on wires, gleefully defying gravity with their acrobatic kicks and somersaults, as destruction rains down around them.
Skirmishes are breathlessly choreographed by fight co-ordinator Corey Yuen, who has worked closely with Jet Li.
Here, he demolishes swathes of a lawless 19th-century Chinese village as two clans battle for supremacy and contrives a showdown between two brutes with metallic bodies, whose shiny frames suffer dents and eventually cave as they weather killer punches.
Initially, women are treated as playthings, to be bedded then discarded in a swoon.
Writer-director RZA and co-writer Eli Roth attempt to avoid accusations of sexism by transforming these simpering femmes into an army of merciless harpies for the grand finale, proving that the female of the species is just as deadly as the male, even in a tight-fitting kimono.
Gold Lion (Chen Kuan Tai), leader of a fearsome band of warriors, is murdered by his ambitious successor Silver Lion (Byron Mann), who intends to steal the Emperor’s gold from its protectors, The Geminis (Andrew Lion, Grace Huang).
Swordsman Zen Yi (Rick Yune), son of Gold Lion and rightful heir, declares war on his father’s murderer.
He arrives in the village where Silver Lion has concealed the booty in catacombs beneath the opulent Pink Blossom brothel, which is run by the beautiful yet deadly Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu).
Alas, Zen Yi is massively outnumbered.
The local blacksmith (RZA), who is in love with one of Madam Blossom’s girls (Jamie Chung), agrees to fight with Zen Yi against the Lions.
Womanising British soldier Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) also pledges his support to Zen Yi, which proves vital during a face off against hulking mercenary Brass Body (David Bautista).
‘The Man With The Iron Fists’ is a mess yet RZA’s slapdash film has undeniable pleasures.
While the leading man lacks charisma, Crowe is a hoot, chewing scenery with an appalling accent as he quips, “I always take a gun to a knife fight!”
Liu demonstrates agility and aggression as the petite brothel owner who protects her girls with a ferocious flick of a paper fan.
Action sequences are orchestrated with aplomb as the body count rises and slow-motion spurts of blood become commonplace as countless extras are slashed and slaughtered for our entertainment.
For ardent fans of furious chop-socky violence, ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’ hits marginally more than its misses.
Star Rating: 2½