if you were as giddy as a Japanese schoolgirl watching the bloody dismemberment of the battle of the House Of The Blue Leaves in Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to all things fu Kill Bill, then The Man With The Iron Fists will be right up your Tai-Pan alley.
Imagine a gory chopsocky actioner, set in a brothel full of hot Asian ladies, with a hipper-than-a-goateed-pelvis hip-hop soundtrack by RZA and his celeb chums — hello Kanye — and you have an idea of the direction this shallow but feisty exercise is heading. If all this sounds like the best film ever made, then rejoice, you are probably a 14-year-old boy.
For the rest, however, guilty pleasures abound once you get past the frequent plot hurdles and the occasional stilted — sorry, stylised — performance. Hands down the biggest culprit being writer/director RZA, as the titular hero. His deadpan delivery is comatose at best, especially when pitched against Russell Crowe’s foppish rogue and the alarmingly OTT bad guy schtick of Byron Mann’s Silver Lion.
Fusing QT-style retro-chic with the ultra violence of Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf & Cub series, the po-faced tradition of the Shaw Brothers and co-writer Eli Roth’s penchant for Lucio Fulci-esque eye-popping splatter; The Man With The Iron Fists sways awkwardly between humble homage and childish giggles all too rapidly. The references are spot on (love the cameo by Kill Bill Part 2’s be-whiskered sensei Gordon Liu) as you would expect, but the execution is often blunted by childish excess. There is no denying that The Man With The Iron Fists is fun, but the “We’re cooler than you” smugness ensures a complete lack of emotional involvement for the viewer. (Yes, you are cooler than us.)
A vacuous but fun exercise in chop-sock style over substance.