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The Man With the Iron Fists

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is the new kung fu movie directed, co-written and starring RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan. The rap group, not the clan, although he has actually been a guest at the Shaolin Temple and trained under a 34th generation Shaolin monk, no bullshit. If you’re not a Shaolin monk and not into hip hop either you might still be familiar with RZA from his all time classic score to GHOST DOG: WAY OF THE SAMURAI or you might’ve seen him show up as an actor occasionally, like in AMERICAN GANGSTER or FUNNY PEOPLE.

Directing a kung fu movie, though, is something he’s been trying to do since at least the ’90s, when he started filming a super hero martial arts thing called BOBBY DIGITAL. The album RZA as Bobby Digital (which I thought was really disappointing, but it has many fans) was supposed to be the soundtrack. There was actually a trailer for it, and I can’t find it on Youtube, but I remember I saw it on the VHS release of his boring short film DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

I guess he never finished BOBBY DIGITAL, and probly for good reason, but for years he’s been trying to make IRON FISTS. And then remember when this mysterious thing showed up online?

Turns out that was a short he made to prove to the money men that he could direct martial arts scenes. (I was thinking he could’ve showed them “Gravel Pit,” but it turns out that was directed by our buddy Joseph Kahn.) He had befriended Eli Roth, who helped him finish the IRON FISTS script and produce the movie in China.

Interesting note: the story is credited to RZA, the screenplay to The RZA. I guess RZA is more of an idea guy and The RZA more of a craftsman.

RZA plays Thaddeus Smith, a former slave now working as a blacksmith in Jungle Village, China. He’s planning to run away with his love Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), a prostitute at the Pink Blossom brothel, but instead he gets caught up in some shit when he helps an injured warrior named Zen-Yi the X-Blade (Rick Yune, Johnny Tran from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS) who’s trying to get revenge on Silver Lion (Byron Mann from BELLY OF THE BEAST, A DANGEROUS MAN and True Justice, hamming it up in this one) for killing his father Gold Lion (Chen Kuan-tai, star of the 1981 IRON MONKEY) and trying to steal a shipment of gold.

RZA has done some decent acting in the past, but you might see this and think he was what I’ve recently decided to call an “artisan actor,” a naive amateur outsider art type of feel. He barely emotes, mostly stands looking unimpressed, his eyelids heavy, like he would in an interview. Actually there’s something I kind of like about this approach, but I think it’s a good thing he loaded the movie with other memorable characters and didn’t put himself on screen the whole time. There’s really less ego than you might expect, because he also has a couple unglamorous scenes. When he gets a horrible injury he doesn’t grunt, he screams. Vin Diesel wouldn’t do that.

This is the rare movie where the occasional first-person narration is welcome, because it brings his character to life. I’ve always liked him better as a producer than a rapper, but this narration reminds me that I do like his voice and his words. You gotta appreciate a movie set in 19th century China with a voiceover referring to a particular clan as “these motherfuckers.”

You can tell by those character names that this is a movie that appeals to me. I should also mention that the Lion Clan (which also features Cung Le from DRAGON EYES as Bronze Lion) all have lion-like manes, and that there’s a Wolf Clan and a Hyena Clan too. The end credits are like a Shaw Brothers opening, with the different characters doing katas with their credits on the screen, and it’s great to see all these names in a row: Poison Dagger, Madam Blossom, Angry Hippo, Brass Body…

Brass Body is my favorite villain, he’s an enforcer played by the huge ex-wrestler Dave Bautista. He has unbreakable skin that actually turns to metal when he needs it to (kinda reminds me of the armor guy in TRUE LEGEND). If you enjoy Bautista in this role give a tip of the hat to David “The Demon” DeFalco, who wanted to help break him into movies and directed him in one of his first roles in WRONG SIDE OF TOWN. That’s how I found out about him.

The biggest show stealer is another one of the good guys, a British cowboy and emissary of the emperor named Jack Knife, played by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe. He becomes a faithful ally to the blacksmith and plays a crucial role in helping him become the title character, but spends most of his scenes in a room at the brothel smoking opium and plying three ladies with beads and dildos. The kind of role that makes you respect the guy more and also worry that it could lead him to the Nicolas Cage DTV ghetto.

But wait, there are even more 5 DEADLY VENOMS type gimmicky characters. My absolute favorite are the Gemini Killers (Andrew Lin and Grace Huang), a husband and wife team who fight as one, spinning each other and firing weapons attached to each other. Their swords combine to form a yin yang.

The blacksmith forges the weapons for the warriors in Jungle Village, and RZA himself seems to have put a huge amount of thought into the weaponry, with all types of knives, guns, blowguns, darts, grappling hooks, claws and tongue-barbs. The X-Blade wears armor with retractable spikes that pop out like quills to protect him from predators. Every fight uses different weapons and styles, lots of variety so they don’t seem repetitive. There’s a modern approach to the cartoonish gore, like a digital RICKY O, but the fights are choreographed by Corey Yuen in a more classic style with a healthy disrespect for gravity but pretty basic in the wire work. More Shaw Brothers than MATRIX.

Unlike the blacksmith’s weapons, this movie does have some weaknesses, and one of them unfortunately is the photography, which in my opinion is much too close up. I think the fights could be better if they pulled back the camera a little, but it’s not as bad as you usually get these days, it actually bothered me more in the dialogue scenes. I don’t know if the sets were limited or something but he has this great world and then he rarely shows it in a wide shot. And sometimes he even has a scene where he and somebody else are talking and they’re both cut off on the sides. Maybe he didn’t know because he was on camera and everybody was afraid to tell him because of the iron fists.

I also would’ve liked if a couple of the fights went on for longer. And I pin this one one Eli Roth. Mr. Beaks did an interview with Roth, who said alot of cool things about his job as producer and his suggestions to RZA about how to approach it. But the one part I think I disagree with is when he says “RZA is a fanatic. He can watch these movies for hours. But I get very bored watching the same movie go on too long, or if the fight is too repetitive. I talked about ‘fight fatigue’. I said, ‘We can’t make a movie where fights go on and on and on.'”

He correctly compares fight scenes to musical numbers, but doesn’t acknowledge that the songs are the main attraction in a musical, they’re allowed to go on and show off, they’re supposed to be show stoppers. You think about not even just in the classics but even in the mainstream hit martial arts movies from KILL BILL to CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, they have really lengthy fights and they don’t fatigue you, they’re exhilirating. When they finally end you exhale, and maybe applaud. These fights are fun, but they don’t give you that.

I also think there are little bits of the story here and there that seem like they’re missing, that I think could make it better. They don’t really establish the blacksmith’s fighting skills until the end, and even in a flashback about him training with the Abbot (the great Gordon Liu of course, although RZA had wanted to use his real life Sifu Shi Yan-Ming) there’s not really fight training. (This might’ve been to emphasize his training in Chi, something RZA really believes in, but still we could’ve seen some punching and kicking montages.) Also, there are a few mentions of him making all the weapons, which is important to the theme of the movie, but I think it could show more forging and the direct lineage of the weapons from him to his new enemies. All little things, but they add up to make the story less effective and harder to love.

And yet this is such a fun world, so full of cool ideas, and it pulls it together for some of the most crucial moments: the fate of the Gemini Killers, the secret plans of Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu – I guess RZA’s “Ode to O-Ren Ishii” on the KILL BILL VOL. 1 soundtrack was no joke), the creation of the iron fists, the revelation about how to defeat Brass Body. So I wanted to love it, and I almost did. I kinda want to see it again already.

One thing that made it appeal more to me than it might to some people, though, is that I’m a fan of RZA, and alot of his personality comes through. I found it kind of charming that he put seemingly out-of-place hip hop songs on the soundtrack. The opening credits put a huge grin on my face when dramatic scoring segued into the Wu-Tang Clan classic “Shame On a Nigga”, now accompanied by a full orchestra. Cung Le is wearing a goofy wig, fighting in a temple, there’s freeze frames and credits in both English and Chinese, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard is rhyming and I thought that’s RZA right there, that’s Wu-Tang, that’s it exactly.

If you don’t know much about RZA you might not know how serious he is about kung fu movies. This is not the same as directors who are supposed to be “geeks” and know all of the different comic book characters, or whatever (although he does blow critic Andy Klein’s mind with all his movie knowledge on their commentary track for The 36th Chamber of Shaolin). And it’s not just that the name of his group and many of his works come from old school kung fu movies (Enter the 36th Chamber, Liquid Swords, lron Flag, The Mystery of Chessboxing, etc. etc.) This runs deeper.

It’s fitting that RZA scored and had a cameo in GHOST DOG, because he shares Ghost Dog’s approach of finding wisdom from all cultures and time periods and combining it into his own philosophy. He’s inspired by traditionally black American subcultures – hip hop, Nation of Islam, 5% Nation – but also by Confucianism and Taoism. He seems to find meaning in The Art of War, the stories of the Bible, and the Shaw Brothers movies he watched all day on 42nd Street.

In his book The Wu-Tang Manual Book One, RZA tells a story about how his family would watch EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER together because the family in the movie had 8 brothers and 3 sisters, just like theirs. Then one day he showed it to Ghostface and some other friends, and “something deep happened. People start feeling it. Some niggas even started crying. Because that movie is real. It’s a kung-fu movie, but it’s a real story. These eight brothers who go out and they get betrayed and they fight to the death for each other–it hit us.”

He compares the story to his life and the legacy of slavery. “I think what got them was the betrayal and the brotherhood. The general betrays the whole family, and the father gets killed, and all the brothers get killed except for two… Listen, we’re oppressed. It does feel like we as a people were betrayed a long time ago. I can’t really describe it any other way. It’s real because the issues are alive with us. You’re living in the hood and you’ve got knowledge and dreams and you got wars between neighborhood and neighborhood and neighborhood. Everybody’s backstabbing everybody. And when you know someone who’s got your back, that’s a life-or-death thing. That’s a real bond, a real brotherhood.”

He’s brought that idea into his movie, playing a guy leaving slavery behind, stuck between battling clans, betrayal, material greed, risking his life for the X-Blade and Jack Knife, and vice versa, coming to terms with his part in the violence, trying to find peace and balance.

So there’s cuteness and camp value in the Shaw Brothers style shaky opening credits, the perfect old school freeze frame ending, and the actors who sometimes deliver their dialogue in the style of an English dub job. But this is not a joke, or a reference, and there is no irony involved. He’s serious, and I think that’s what makes it work.

Pull the camera back next time though, fellas. Come on.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 at 11:50 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

75 Responses to “The Man With the Iron Fists”

  1. I really wanted this to be good.

    It sounds like there’s a lot of promise there, so I hope RZA gets to have another crack at wearing the puffy directing pants.

  2. Can somebody tell Eli Roth to stay the fuck away from shit I like please? I really don’t like that dudes output. I still will see this but it’s looking more and more like waiting for DVD is the way to go. I guess I want fight fatigue and to be able to see what is going on. I could probably do without the CGI gore too.

  3. Most of the gore looked practical to me. There were only one or two slow-mo shots where the CGI became obvious. They got KNB for the effects so there are lots of shots that zoom right in on the latex appliances, showing off their work.

    I agree with you, Vern, that you have to love the earnestness and attention to detail that went into creating this world, but it feels like something’s missing. I guess that’s what happens when you take a whole lifetime of storing up ideas and then try to cram them into 95 minutes. I hear RZA’s first cut was four hours long (apparently a whole clan got cut out at the last minute), and honestly, I would watch that. Every little corner of the world seemed intriguing enough to explore further. That’s probably never gonna happen but maybe the DVD will have an unrated extended cut. Probably won’t fix the framing problems but it might be edited a little less frenetically. It kind of felt like he was unwilling to lose a single shot, so he stuffed them all in there even if it was just for a few frames.

    Either way, I liked it a lot, flaws and all. I would have preferred the fights to be better, but the weirdness of the characters and mythology made up for it.

    I also like BOBBY DIGITAL, though, so what do I know?

  4. I only blame Roth for possibly keeping the fights shorter than I would like. I like his movies and suspect that his help on the script and on set were valuable. But regardless of that, him “staying the fuck away” from this movie would mean that it was never made. It’s not like somebody else was funding it and he butted in and said “let me throw some Eli magic on that shit.” RZA was trying to make it for years, and after Roth got some clout as a producer he made it happen.

  5. Maybe i am just a grumpy old Sack,but i hate it,when they overdoing that CGI Crap.Mr.Majestyk wrote they did not,
    but the Trailers looked Terrible.
    I just watched “Skyfall” and it´s really a great Movie,one of my Top 5 Bond Faves of all Time,and it looks absolutly
    Stunning(thanks to Roger Deakins),but there is a Scene with CGI Komodo Dragons that left me Headshaking.
    Also the Snake Pit in the Coens “True Grit”,took me complete out of the Movie.
    And the Scenes in the Trailer of “Man with the Iron Fist”looked really Crappy.That flying Eye…C´mon.

  6. I hate CGI gore, too, but overuse of it was not one of TMWTIRF’s problems. Sure, they used it for the occasional limb-lopping where it was necessary to see the actor’s face or for the occasional big-money show-off shot, but most of the wounds were rubber and most of the blood splatters were wet and messy high-pressure jets. The trailer really overemphasized the few CGI gore shots, probably to try to make the movie look like it had a bigger budget. But you don’t have to worry about this being another NINJA ASSASSIN type situation where they were afraid they wouldn’t get their safety deposit back if they stained the floors so they said fuck it and let the computer guys do everything.

  7. I wonder if it isn’t so much CGI gore people dislike or just badly done CGI gore. There’s no reason those kind of effects shouldn’t be pretty much photo-realistic using today’s technology, maybe people just don’t notice it when it’s done properly.

  8. Eli Roth is a strange one to me. He seems like an ok guy, and we definitely have some similar tastes. But, where our taste differs, it tends to be enough to ruin his stuff for me. It’s like he almost gets it, then fucks it up. Asking RZA to shorten the fight scenes in a Kung Fu movie is a perfect example of this.

    But, I’m very happy he helped this get made. I’ve heard that this is just ok, but I hope it leads to a long series of RZA films. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a renaissance of Shaw Bros style films?

  9. Mode7: I agree with you. I think there are times when we don’t even realize CGI gore is being used (or is at least enhancing practical effects). But too often, animators are pretty lazy about the compu-blood. I think more often than not, they get the physics wrong and you get these over the top blood sprays which don’t act like liquid would, if you know what I mean.

  10. Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwan

    November 4th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Great review Vern. I’m glad you appreciate that this movie comes from a serious place for RZA and isn’t just a wacky ironic pastiche. I would love to watch RZA’s four hour cut, but at the same time I’m glad we got a briskly paced 90 minute movie. I feel pretty similarly to Vern – wish the action was better (better shot and better edited) but I still had fun. I enjoyed Batista, Russell Crowe (now that you’ve compared him to Nic Cage I totally see this as a Cage-ian attempt at mega-acting) and the Silver Lion guy the most.

    I was a little surprised by the slave flashback. I sort of expected that it would never be explained why the RZA was in 19th century China, he just was there and we had to deal with it. I feel like that section was probably a lot longer in the original cut (suddenly a boat crash), and I wonder if the stuff that was mostly explained through montage and voiceover in this was necessitated by the heavy editing.

  11. Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwan

    November 4th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Also… you’re wrong Mr. Majestyk, this movie overflowed with CGI blood. We got some old-fashioned gore effects when it was time for a close-up of a wound, but most of the time it was obviously cartoon blood sprays.

  12. @ Mode 7 & Detroyt: Yeah, I think it’s the old CGI dilemma of being completely invisible when done right. People always think that CGI looks fake and cartoony, but that’s because they only see the badly done FX. If you look at the making ofs of movies like CLOVERFIELD or CHILDREN OF MEN, it will blow your mind how many stuff that looks like it was done on camera is actually CGI, but for any reason those three letters are still associated in many people’s heads with shit like VAN HELSING or SyFy Original Movies.

  13. I’ve never seen CGI blood that looks real. I’m not sure why that is. I wonder if it’s just a matter of cost, however. Maybe they have to keep the level of quality low in order to justify using CGI and not practical effects.

    I’m sad this movie is getting mixed reviews. I’ll still definitely watch it, but I was hoping for something really special. Still, a great American made Kung Fu film is a rare beast these days, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.

  14. The Problem is,they use in nearly every Movie today,even if it does not fit.
    Films i really liked,like “Drive”had some terrible CGI Blood Scenes.The Dinosaurs in “Tree of Life”Comes to Mind.
    In the Trailer for a Movie i cant wait to see(Killing them Softly)is a Car Exploding Scene,that looks all kind of wrong.
    I know there is some good CGI.I am not an Idiot.And i dont watch Dreck like “Van Helsing”.
    But sometimes it just kind of ruined,otherwise good Movies.

  15. RBatty: You have never seen real looking CGI blood or you haven’t noticed that it was CGI when it looked real? ;)

  16. I so want to forgive this movie for its poor handling of the most of the fight scenes, but I am still too disappointed to be forgiving. I do agree that there is a lot to love about this movie, and that it is a unique film that could have only been made by the RZA. I just hope the RZA uses this film as a learning opportunity to become a better filmatist and fight scene director going forward.

  17. Dtroyt, if there is going to be “a renaissance of Shaw Bros style films”, I am afraid the RZA is not the guy that is going to lead the renaissance. I had high hopes that he was the man for the job based on his knowledge and love of Kung Fu cinema, but the worst part of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is the RZA’s direction of the fight scenes. Maybe over time if he works to refine his craft he can become the guy to bring about a martial arts film renaissance.

  18. Mr. The Dream: I guess they fooled me then. I didn’t get a real good look at much of anything during the fights so it’s possible. Maybe the compublood was why they cut it so fast.

  19. There is a much, much longer cut of this movie. For example, that opening credits scene…they spent 3 1/2 weeks shooting it. Roth was really annoyed with the ‘longer cut’ questions at the press day.

  20. Tawdry, I would be curious to see the longer cut. Maybe in the longer cut the fights are given time to breathe and are presented in a more cohesive way then how they are handled in the theatrical cut, but the framing of the fight scenes and the RZA’s use of tight shots leaves me skeptical that they still wouldn’t be very well executed.

  21. I totally agree with all of Vern’s problems, but those problems are overshadowed by how much fun I had watching it. This movie was just really fun and was constantly full of interesting things going on. It’s obvious the RZA had a stockpile of thousands of ideas over the years and it feels like he threw every one of them into one movie. There’s enough things going on in this movie for 5 movies.

    Something this self indulgent could piss me off, but instead I really liked it. All the talk about CGI gore or whatever doesn’t matter to me when lines like “spicy” and whatnot stick with me a lot more.

  22. If it’s not clear in the review, I really liked the movie despite the problems I had with it. I think I’m gonna try to go see it again before it leaves theaters.

    Also, this CGI issue is dumb. There’s not much of it, all of it looks cool and is used because there’s not a better way to do it. These people who are racist against anything done by computers, I don’t know why they continue to watch movies made after 1993.

  23. Because there are some real good Films made after 1993.And there is some real bad CGI even in some real good
    Films since then.And there are still People who think there was not one single Cinematic Shootout,better than the
    Finale of The Wild Bunch(1969).
    The CGI Gore in “Savages” was very good, by the way .

  24. There were also some real bad effects before CGI. I mean, I love Ray Harryhausen as much as the next guy, but you can’t tell me that stop motion looks realistic and yet people talk about how “CGI takes them out of the movie”.

  25. Wow, that XHTML quote thingy didn’t work out as expected!

  26. And i am not only a Racist,but a Facist.I think,there should be international Laws against piss poor CGI.
    Thanks God,Scorsese did Taxi Driver 1976 and not today.I can almost here them;Oh C´mon Marty,we dont want
    to wash the “Blood Stains”from the Walls ; Please,we can use CGI and anything stays clean.

  27. Where did i said that i love Ray Harryhausen ?
    Where did i said they should not use CGI on SiFi and Fantasy Films ?

  28. I thought you said that in your memoir.

  29. I think I know the cause of Pike’s CGI heresy:

  30. Hi there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I will certainly digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this website.

  31. I wouldn’t say I’m racist against computer effects in movies, but I certainly support CGI-apartheid (spoken like a true South African).

    Some movies need CGI. Others don’t. I don’t like it when the CGI moves into the same neighbourhood as the “pure” movies. Next thing we know there’s one of those Real Doll looking mo-cap monstrosities in the White House. And what next, a fucking Mormon?

    No no no, this CGI thing doesn’t sound right to me. We should send them back to whatever rusty old microchip or wherever the hell they come from.

  32. Stop motion doesnt look more real than cgi, but it sure as fuck feels like magic to me. I know how you do stop motion, fuck, I’ve done stop motion, but when I see it…it’s magic.

  33. My uzi weighs a ton, son. Carry it.

    That line alone made me fork over the cash to go see it.

  34. I couldn’t believe how much I hated this movie, it was stupid, insulting, and boring. RZA is a bad actor, but a much worst filmmaker, if he actually likes kung fu movies, this is a bad representation of that, he treats the whole genre as a joke, he shows no respect.

  35. Hmmm. How do you think it treats the genre as a joke? I can’t really imagine how you could fit more Shaw Brothers worship into one movie unless you superimposed it forwards over the backwards version like that one movie says to do with THE SHINING.

  36. Geez. Grumpy pro-CGI blood Vern is not something I expected. It made the already bad Expendables even worse in my humble opinion. I mean if your script is phony, and the action is poor, at least try to make the blood real.
    Hell, I’m even pro-pig blood like DePalma.

  37. Darth, of course I am a fan of real-fake blood and practical effects (both of which you will see in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FIST, along with some more modern technology, but not a huge amount, because it’s a pretty low budget movie). I’m just sick of the kneejerk “anything done with computers is automatically the worst thing ever” attitude that is so prevalent among movie fans. Obviously computers can and have been used to great effect in movies. In this one it’s used to make blood spray out in a spiral, in DAY OF RECKONING to make the top of a head blow off of a still moving actor, revealing the insides. And of course it’s used to turn Brass Body’s body into a brass body, which I don’t see how somebody could have a problem with. Like Majestyk I’m not actually sure if some of these moments are done by Nicotero or by the computers, which proves that whichever one it was it was done well.

    Therefore I am justified in being grumpy about somebody who hasn’t seen the movie writing the whole thing off on the basis of assuming it uses a tool that they are philosophically against. Pike specifically mentioned blood in DRIVE and dinosaurs in TREE OF LIFE as examples of bad CGI. If there was CGI blood in DRIVE at all it was done well enough that I don’t remember it, and the dinosaurs in TREE OF LIFE were incredible, so this is why I consider it an anti-computer zealotry and not a fair artistic criticism.

    Use computers, don’t use computers, just do it well, I say. I didn’t have any problems with CGI in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. In fact I expected it to be more like the modern digital effects infused Hong Kong/China movies like TRUE LEGEND, DETECTIVE DEE, RED CLIFF and FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, but RZA (and his budget) went more old school.

    (Ah, shit, maybe the reason why he didn’t have more establishing shots was ’cause he didn’t want to do those big CGI tableaus everybody does now.)

  38. The artistry behind practical effects is undeniable,but what CGI can bring to the table is more seamless shots,instead of cutting away to a reaction shot, you can see the actor and then the head explode in the same shot (just an example).I have nothing against CG really, but I do appreciate the craftmanship behind practical effects work with latex and shit like that.

  39. I also don’t like cheap and distracting CGI, but well done CGI mixed with practical effects can look great. Anybody that reads this thread can tell I am really disappointed with THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, so please understand that I am not defending the film or the RZA when I say that the use of CGI effects and gore are in no way an issue in this movie. Actually, I think there are a number of good CGI and practical effects in the film. (SPOILERS) The scene where the RZA gets his arms cut off features some notable practical effects work form K.N.B. Effects.

  40. One little mistake I noticed was that after RZA has his arms SPOILERED off and he’s sitting there in bed, the tendons in his inner elbows were flexing as if he still had forearms. It made it easy to picture the green opera gloves he had on when they shot that scene.

    I didn’t mind it, though. It was endearingly clunky just like the movies it was trying to celebrate, but with a [bobby] digital twist.

  41. I dont want to turn back Time or something.There is some great CGI Work in big Movies Jackson´s King Kong or
    Avatar.I mentioned that i liked the CGI in Savages.But i really dont liked it in Drive(Bathroomscene).
    All i say is, they should not overdo it.If it is not a big Issue in TMWTIF,all the better.
    But the Snake Pit in True Grit(Remake)was gruesome.
    I wrote about the Komodo Dragon thing in Skyfall.Now again,i loved this Movie.I am a big Ian Fleming and Bond Fan
    and Skyfall,together with”OHMSS” and “From Russia with Love”became one of my Favorites.
    And there are Tons of great CGI in this Movie,but during this Scene i thought on the Stuntmen in
    “Live and Let Die”who jumped over the Alligator Backs and how great that was.Now i know a Komodo Dragon is a
    more dangerouse Animal than an Alligator(Blood Poisoning),and i sure dont want any Stuntman to die.
    But than,Why Komodo Dragons at all ? Why dont use somthig else ?

  42. Yeah, I’m very in favor of CGI in my flics, it is a fantastic tool. The Avengers and such wouldn’t be possible without it. (But really shouldn’t be compromised by the budget. If you don’t have the money for some top notch effects, try something else).
    I’m a bit more narrow in my criticism though. I’m firmly against the use of CGI gunshot wounds in action movies like the Expendables. It is atrocious. Get some damn squibs! I hope we can all agree on that.

  43. I for one don’t care if CGI sucks. I was at comic-con last summer and I was watching a horror movie screening and I realized, “These effects kinda suck…but, if they were better, it wouldn’t actually make the movie any scarier or less scary.” I’m down to suspend my disbelief. I don’t care if it looks, ‘fake’ so long as it looks, ‘cool.’

  44. I’m starting to find bad CGI kind of endearing. Like in LOCKOUT, there’s that whole motorcycle chase that looks like a cutscene from FINAL FANTASY VIII or something, and I thought that set the tone for the rest of the movie. Don’t expect to be blown away, don’t expect realism, just relax and have some fun with it.

    I also think there’s a difference between iffy CGI in a CGI-heavy movie and iffy CGI in an otherwise practical movie. The latter sticks out and ruins the suspension of disbelief, while the former is the price of watching that kind of movie in the first place. I don’t really require that special effects look real as long as they fit the style the movie is going for.

    I am racist against CGI squibs, though. They’re just not satisfying.

  45. I can’t believe that the Iron Fists thread is dominated by CGI bickering! Y’all should be delighted to see such old school kung fu-ery.

    Far as the movie goes: I had one major problem with it and it was the Score. Aside from ‘shame’ at the beginning and the track they had over the end credits, I thought the music was shockingly bad: both the actual songs and the way they were used/integrated into the cut. Consider use of RZA’s music in Kill Bill 1 by comparison. Granted KB1 is this polished affair and FISTS has it’s whole aesthetic, but still. Would expect more from the fkn Abbot.

    But overall I would say the film is just good enough to make you a bit disappointed it’s not like a masterpiece. I mean I dunno how y’all feel about the Wu Tang but for me they’re pretty revolutionary, and in large part due to the definitive stamp RZA left on hip hop production. Those skeletal, discordant beats, sounding as much like something that you came across in a haunted temple as something that was intentionally produced, I mean you know, it’s been well documented. So I gotta say a part of me fantasized that he was going to go and like transform filmmaking the way he had transformed gangsta rap.

    As it is I think y’all are underestimating some of the visual gestures in the film. The best moment for me was during the climax when his split-screens are taking over, and then suddenly they’re battling in this mirror arena and it’s like the split screening has bled into the physical world of the movie. Fucking sweet!

    long story short= RZA dropped a “tiger style”, I went home happy.

  46. For those interested Cung Le (Bronze Lion) is fighting Rich Franklin in the main event of the UFC card on the Fuel channel this evening. Fair warning the card is being broadcast on a tape delay since it is taking place in China, so be careful of spoilers on the net.

  47. Not a great movie, this, but it contains greatness, and I do have the urge to see the longer cut and to see future RZA-directed projects.

    Vern says it best: “Pull the camera back next time though, fellas. Come on.”

    Seriously.

  48. Vern, I’ve got no idea how to work your suggestions page, so I’m leaving a suggestion here. When are you finally going to get around to reviewing the greatest Shaw Brothers kung-fu flick of all time, Crippled Avengers aka Mortal Combat aka Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms?

  49. I am sure it has to be an error or typo but Amazon has the run time of the uncut version of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS on Blu at 408 minutes. I guess those fights scenes were way longer in the RZA’s original cut.

  50. My friend edited this film and RZA’s original cut was about 4 hours long. They cut it down to an hour and a half, and then RZA had them put it all back into a 3 hour version, and then they cut it down to the film that was released theatrically. Also, RZA wanted to put a My Chemical Romance song over the climax…hopefully that doesn’t happen in the longer cut they’re releasing.

  51. Charles— The Amazon listing you saw was for a two-disc combo pack (Blu-Ray + regular DVD). The listing for the stand-alone DVD has a running time of 204 minutes. I imagine that makes better sense.

    109 minutes longer than the theatrical release… DAMN. Should make for a much more interesting movie.

  52. Amazon run time includes every bonus feature. The actual extended cut is 12 minutes longer which should still be significant.

  53. I managed to get the blu-ray early. I enjoyed the unrated cut. I don’t know the movie well enough to know all the differences, but I noticed a new part in the opening credits fight where one of the Hyena Clan gets eaten by fake looking wolves. I believe the Blacksmith training-with-the-monks flashback is quite a bit longer, with him learning a couple more lessons, and that improves the movie I think. The most obvious difference isn’t even figured into the running time because it’s a pretty extensive cliffhanger scene that plays during the end credits and incorporates minor characters that Tawdry asked RZA about when he interviewed him.

    Don’t worry, no Chemical Romance song as far as I noticed.

    There’s also 24 minutes of deleted scenes included on the disc. They fill in more of the story but also make you understand why they had to trim the movie so much. Weirdly the scenes that were cut seem to have all the wide establishing shots that the movie seemed so light on.

    I haven’t watched the other extras yet. I wish there was a commentary track with RZA and maybe Eli Roth, but I guess we’ll have to wait until it gets re-released by Dragon Dynasty or something.

    The new epilogue made me wonder if they’re considering a RETURN OF THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. I figure after they add in overseas and video and everything it will make a small profit.

  54. Thanks for the heads up guys, but I figured that was an error on Amazon’s part. I was trying to be funny.

    I plan on checking the extend cut out, I hope I like it more than the theatrical cut. There really is a lot to love about this movie, but the execution of the fight scenes is just so disappointing. However, Vern’s comments about the extend cut don’t give me much hope the fight scenes will be drastically improved.

    I do wish there was a RZA commentary track.

  55. Given how that I thought The RZA stunk out the house in RETALIATION (which was honestly my longest prolonged exposure to the man), I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I am still not entirely sure about him as an actor, but I think he’s got a lot to offer in the other realms he attempts here. The story isn’t that compelling or coherent, but it was a lot of fun to watch, and it looked great. It was basically MORTAL KOMBAT done right. That’s probably not quite what he was going for but I’ll take it.

  56. Pacman, did you watch the theatrical cut or the extended cut of the film?

    I got around to checking out the extended cut and found it to be much more enjoyable then theatrical version.

  57. Theatrical; I haven’t made the jump to Blu-Ray yet (which is the only format the extended version is available on in the UK)

  58. Knox Harrington

    April 7th, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I watched this recently and was so damn disappointed. When it was first announced that RZA was making a kung fu movie starring Russell Crowe and endorsed by Tarantino, I thought we had guaranteed gold on our hands, but this movie actually makes me doubt his credibility as an expert on kung fu cinema. Maybe he’s just not a good filmmaker.

    Also, why does Tarantino keep putting his name on shitty movies? Remember Hell Ride? That was bad, man.

  59. Just watched this and was really disappointed. I loved all the attention to detail with all the crazy clans, gimmicky weapons and STORY-OF-RICKY level gore, but the garbage fight scenes just flushed all that effort down the toilet. In any other type of film I could have looked past it, but if you’re going to pay tribute to the greats you’d better bring your A-game or you’re just going to make me wish I was watching EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER instead.

    I also thought RZA was terrible. His acting was flat, his narration was shockingly bad in parts, and he’s bad at screen-fighting to boot. I appreciate that he has a sincere love of the genre, but it reminds me of Vern’s comments about how having Dr Who pyjamas and a Green Lantern tattoo doesn’t make you qualified to make a comic book movie. I’d happily watch another kung fu film by him if he promises to stay behind the camera and get a second-unit guy to shoot the fight scenes.

  60. I liked this one very much. It had a lot that you would expect from a Shaw Brothers production; lavish sets, a complex narrative filled with colourful characters, lots of interesting and gimmicky weapons and also a kick ass soundtrack. I really wish RZA can develop this kind of ecclectic “hiphop-fu” in further movies. He can still do better,compositionally in the fights expecially. But in all an enjoyable movie. I´m looking forward to seeing the unrated cut that was included on the blu-ray.

  61. The “fight fatigue” is interesting because Roth was obviously thinking of the mass audiences reaction to the fights, which is a wholesome attitude if you want to sell your movie. But most of the movie is about genre-recognition more than anything else, isn´t it? I don´t know if anyone not into old school kung fu would like this. The movie is very niche in itself.

  62. Vern, today’s Washington Post (4/5/2014) has an article on David Bautista, apparently back into wrestling and looking forward to a big role in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. I didn’t know anything about him when I saw IRON FISTS, but he impressed me as the first guy I’d seen in a long time with the size and presence of an old-time classic movie villain like Jack Palance. He was the true badass that Jason Momoa was trying to be in BULLET TO THE HEAD.

  63. Fred Blosser – which is funny because Jason Momoa was offered that Drax the Destroyer part in GOTG before Bautista got the gig.

  64. Fun Fact: RZA directed an episode of the upcoming IRON FIST series for Marvel.

  65. What is Iron Fist’s gimmick? That’s he is a white guy that’s awesome in martial arts? Is there a super power the dude has because if he doesn’t that makes Scott Adkins a super hero.

  66. I’m pretty sure he’s white. The actor playing him is white. He’s white in the comics. He’s a white dude. Besides being a white dude, what’s his powers?

  67. What the hell are we talking about? RZA played the charcter in the movies. Is this some retroactive whitewashing?

  68. Oh, it is a differnet iron Fist?

  69. OH I get it.

    I’m talking about Iron Fist “Danny Rand” from Marvel and not Iron Fist from Man With the Iron Fist.

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