THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence, Strong Sexuality, Language and brief Drug Use

IronFist poster

Directed by: RZA

Written by: RZA & Eli Roth

Starring: RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le & Byron Mann

MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is a movie that piqued my interest upon release, but I never took the plunge of going out to see it in the theater. That decision was probably for the best as I simply can’t imagine what a boring and agonizing an experience it would have been to stare at the big screen, fully knowing that I had just wasted 10 bucks and driven to a venue to watch 96 minutes of cinematic crap. RZA and Eli Roth were clearly trying to translate their love for stylish and ridiculous kung-fu epics into the ultimate homage film. The end result is MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS and it feels like a bad wannabe Grindhouse throwback.

MCDMAWI EC088

In the nineteenth century Chinese village of Jungle Village (creative name), a nameless blacksmith forges weapons for the various clans intent on killing each other. He might have to create more than a few new weapons as news hits of a valuable gold stash being transported through his town. This moving treasure on the horizon leads to various clans fighting over who will steal the gold as well as a couple of dangerous folks intent on protecting the treasure and plenty of murderous plots afoot. The unnamed blacksmith finds himself siding with a violent British emissary to fight violent scoundrels, protect the gold and ultimately, his village.

Film Title: The Man With the Iron Fists

The biggest problem with MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is definitely the writing. This film is all over the place and never once seems to gain any solid footing. There are goofy attempts at humor, over-the-top characters, and a plot that weaves through too many sub-plots without giving us a single reason to care about any of them. It almost feels as if the story is making itself up as it goes along. The fight scenes are far too brief for the viewer to care either. There are no show-stopping stunts or memorable set pieces (save for one thanks to Russell Crowe). Instead, brief CGI-addled quick bits replace actual fight scenes and don’t necessarily do anything remotely fresh, original or exciting. I mean, you have a baddie who can turn his body into brass and he really doesn’t use that insane power to much effect.

Film Title: The Man With the Iron Fists

RZA’s performance is horrible. Seeing as he pulled triple duty (directing, writing and starring) in this film, this was clearly his passion project. I just wish he hadn’t thrown himself into the title role. Though he serves as the would-be main protagonist, there are too many other characters and convoluted plot points to really care about his bland blacksmith with a convenient supernatural power. To make matters even worse, RZA provides a voice-over narration in a lifeless tone and wooden delivery. Still, there are a couple of brief redeeming qualities in MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. Russell Crowe’s character is pretty damned cool, sporting the only memorable scene in the entire movie by sawing a guy in half in the first 10 minutes. A couple of jokes hit their marks, such as reactions from certain crowd members to the gory chaos around them. Apparently, this film was originally four hours long. Though I can’t imagine a longer version would fare much better (it might actually be far worse), this final cut of IRON FISTS definitely feels like a cut-and-paste job.

MCDMAWI EC086

As cool as a couple of shots are and as unapologetically badass as the marketing was, MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is a very lame movie. It feels like there are way too many characters, plot threads and ideas stuffed into one film. These problems leave little room for any character development or lengthy fight scenes as well as the hope of this flick getting any solid footing in terms of story-telling. I couldn’t care less about RZA’s blacksmith or his iron weapons of choice. The whole film feels unbelievably forced from its faux retro opening credits to the many plot points that are obvious references to kung fu films of the past. MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS looked too good to be true and rang completely false.

Grade: D

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Sexuality and Language

Slevin poster

Directed by: Paul McGuigan

Written by: Jason Smilovic

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley & Stanley Tucci

In the opening minutes of LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (after a grisly montage of different people being taken out in violent ways), Bruce Willis explains what a Kansas City Shuffle is. He describes it as when everybody goes right and you go left. The entire plot of SLEVIN could be summed up that description. This ingenious and underrated crime thriller leads goes left where every other crime thriller goes right. It’s a constantly surprising and very well-written flick that needs a bigger following behind it. If there was any best Tarantino movie that Tarantino didn’t direct in the new millennium, this is it!

MCDLUNU EC009

Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) is an unlucky young man who has found himself in quite the predicament. After losing his job, apartment and girlfriend, Slevin goes to visit his friend Nick Fisher in New York. Once there, his luck gets even worse as he’s mugged (wallet with ID and all is taken) and Nick is nowhere to be found. After making friends with a nosy neighbor (Lucy Liu), Slevin winds up in a classic case of mistaken identity. Nick owes money to two different mob bosses, The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley), who live across a busy street from each other. Slevin is caught in between these crime lords and a brutish cop (Stanley Tucci) on his case. All the while a shady hitman named Goodkat (Bruce Willis) waits in the background to make his move. It’s a confusing plot to get down properly and things get even more complicated as the movie goes along, but the second half is where everything pays off in spades! This is an understated near masterpiece.

MCDLUNU EC028

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is comparable to a Tarantino crime flick in any number of ways. Namely the dialogue which is sharp, fast, and full of wit. The colorful characters all have their special personalities. Even someone as basic as two thugs who are seen in three scenes, make their presence known with different quirks. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are fantastic as two rival crime bosses who have their own different sense of humor. Both are intimidating, especially Morgan Freeman, but their smartass attitudes make them a joy to watch. Bruce Willis also shines Goodkat, rarely glimpsed in the first half but making his presence well-known in the second.

MCDLUNU EC003

The one thing that I would fault is the connection between Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu. A romance is kindled between the two and they aren’t exactly compelling as a couple. I’ll go as far as saying that Lucy Liu is the weakest part of this flick. Josh Hartnett is a smartass that kind get a little grating at points, but I completely dug his character by the end. Also, Stanley Tucci is underused as the main police officer on Slevin’s tail. Some viewers might find it a little hard to get through the seemingly convoluted nature of the first half, but things go from confusing to downright excellent and rewarding in the second half. This is a movie that turns into something you don’t expect it to. Keeping it vague, you won’t know what hit you.

MCDLUNU EC006

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN is a Kansas City Shuffle (you’ll know the origin of this term in the final seconds of the film). It’s one of the most underrated films that you’re bound to find. One of the best crime stories you’ve never heard of and if you have heard of this film, then you know exactly why its awesome and how it tricks the viewer in so many ways. There are tons of twists in LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN and I’ve kept things vague enough so you won’t guess exactly what’s coming. The second hour is one of the finest reveals that keeps pulling even more reveals as it goes along. Though the forced romance might keep things from being perfect, it’s damn near a masterpiece regardless. A bloody brilliant film that is the definition of a hidden gem. If you’re even remotely into gangster movies, then you must see this!

Grade: A

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑