I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Man With the Iron Fists 2

tn_mwtif2My friends, I don’t know about you, but I count myself lucky to live in a world where one of my favorite hip hop producers, the RZA, not only got to write, direct and star in a legit kung fu movie, but got to do a DTV sequel directed by one of the leaders of the form (Roel Reiné, THE MARINE 2, DEATH RACE 23, SCORPION KING 3, 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED). If I somehow slipped and fell into an alternate dimension that’s okay. I’m not going back.

Filmed in Thailand with about a third of the first film’s budget, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 is much more normal and low key than the first one, I want to warn you of that up front. There are fewer colorful gimmicks, no crazy Russell Crowe performance, comparably grounded (both literally and figuratively) martial arts, and no mention of the cliffhanger from the director’s cut where I think he had to team up with the X-Blade to save his wife that got snatched by the Falcon Clan and put in a big nest on top of a mountain or something like that. But for me it’s still a very enjoyable sequel because it maintains the most important ingredient: the complete sincerity of the RZA.

mp_mwtif2RZA provides the story and co-writes the screenplay with John Jarrell (ROMEO MUST DIE), and there’s nothing winky or phony about his use of traditional martial arts story elements, his themes of the underclass rising up against their oppressors, or his casual injection of hip hop into a period Asian setting. As always I love any part where he gets to narrate (see also G.I. JOE: RETALIATION), but I swear this time some of the little philosophical nuggets he drops are legitimately wise. He has a way of reciting these little koans or sayings that use an analogy to share insight on the story which we might in turn apply to our own modern non-kung-fu lives. Or if not at least it sounds cool.

As this tale begins, Thaddeus, a.k.a. the Blacksmith, a.k.a. The Man With the Iron Fists, has left Jungle Village “on a path to Buddha.” He wants to dedicate his life to peace, so he has covered his iron fists in bandages, but he gets jumped by Silver Lion’s brother Young Lion (Seigi Ozeki) and his men. Of course he wins the fight, but he falls unconscious into the river.

Now he’s out of the movie for about 15-20 minutes as we learn about this other village where young girls keep turning up dead, drained of their chi, possibly by the ghost of Lord Pi, who once tried to steal the Golden Nectar from the temple to achieve immortality. The fuckin prick. But also it could be the work of Master Ho (Carl Ng), brutal leader of the Beetle Clan who forces the men to work in his silver mines and stakes people who try to leave town. When Thaddeus floats in and is nursed back to health by a girl named Innocence (Pim Bubear) and learns about the village from her father Li Kung (Dustin Nguyen, RAPID FIRE) he can’t help but notice the parallels to his old neck of the woods (the American south).

On the commentary track RZA says he originally meant to call her the Chinese word for innocence, but then decided to just leave it as Innocence. But he has created a world here where that sort of thing is allowed.

The Man With the Iron Fists’ legend precedes him, so they ask him for help, as you do when a badass drifter comes through your troubled town in a western, samurai or kung fu film. But he’s one of those seeking-redemption badass drifters so he doesn’t want to punch anybody or forge any more weapons of death. He just makes them new tools for mining. That can also be used as weapons of death.

I think there’s one notable improvement in the sequel: RZA – who seemed uncharacteristically tired in the first one – is much more present here, and this time is the coolest character in the movie. When he decides he has to fight and the bandages are torn off his fists it’s a thrilling moment, and though I’m guessing he’s a less experienced martial artist than some of the other actors he has a really appealing style, a distinct way of moving his lanky limbs, and of course an emphasis on super-powered punches. He’s once again doubled by Marrese Crump, who played his henchman in THE PROTECTOR 2 and got his start in Demon Dave’s WRONG SIDE OF TOWN, but it looks like he’s doing alot of his stunts (and he looks kinda funny running and makes goofy faces when he punches, which makes the slow motion shots kind of endearing).

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c-htI also think the fights are shot more clearly by Reine, who acts as his own cinematographer. I’m not gonna say they’re better fights, since I prefer all the pulpy characters and their gimmicky weapons and wire-heavy Corey Yuen choreography in the first one. The Gemini Killers and their combining yin yang blades do cameo in the prologue, but otherwise it’s just normal guys in robes (and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the mayor). Still, the fights are well done, there is some enjoyable blood sprays, flying limbs and super-punches, and the large scale battles at the climax are particularly good, probly more elaborate than anything I’ve seen in a Reine movie before.

I mean, here are a couple shots to show you this is a pretty fuckin good looking DTV sequel:

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Neither the credits or the IMDb list a fight choreographer, but Reine refers to him as “Sang” on the commentary track and says it’s the stunt team that work on all of Tony Jaa’s movies.

Though lead villain Master Ho looks more normal than, say, Brass Body or Bronze Lion from the first one, he’s a good villain with a bunch of memorable total-fucking-asshole (TFA) moments. Three examples:

a) when the townspeople are gathered to mourn a dead girl he comments on how hot she is, spits on her corpse and tells everybody to get back to work

II) when a miner complains about their worn down tools he takes the tool from the guy and beheads him with it to prove that it’s still in working condition. Then he criticizes him for not putting in enough elbow grease

three) when an assassin fires at him he pulls in two harem girls he has his arms around to block the arrows

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He (and other characters) also follow Silver Lion’s lead by talking in the accent and cadence of an English dub for a vintage kung fu movie. It doesn’t sound jokey, just like a loving tribute.

The music (score by RZA and Howard Drossin) is really good too, much more worthy of the RZA name than most of his non-GHOST DOG film scores. This time there’s a ton of spaghetti western influence, and the main theme is a piece from THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (“Ecstasy of Gold”) put over a hip hop beat. I also noticed a loop of some of Adrian Younge’s music for BLACK DYNAMITE (“Enemies All Around Me”). So the vibe of this movie is somewhere between Leone and Jai White. That’s about right.

Or it’s like a traditional period martial arts epic that the RZA happened to wander into and take over. And that’s my kind of movie.

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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 Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 at 7:29 am 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.

14 Responses to “The Man With the Iron Fists 2”

  1. The thing about the English-accent villains is interesting to me, because this is set in the mid to late 19th century, and a lot of other Chinese-made kung fu films really lean on the tension between the locals, native Chinese and the English colonialists; I wonder how much of that RZA is interested in, or if it’s just a coincidence that comes from the homage.

  2. Disliked the first one a lot, but I really wanna know if the whole thing plays out any better on a DTV budget.

  3. The Undefeated Gaul

    April 21st, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    As a fellow Dutchman I think it’s cool that you like/respect Roel Reiné so much, but I can’t bring myself to watch any of his movies after sitting through Death Race 2 and 3, which I greatly disliked. Doesn’t seem like he has the skills or the spark to add something really fun or special to these films (at least not the type of things I look for in my B action movies).

    Did you know he got to direct a proper big production in The Netherlands last year? When I say “big” of course I mean by Dutch standards, as the budget was 8 million euros. It’s a historical epic about Michiel de Ruyter, a famous Dutch admiral, and apparently it’s full of large scale sea battles and Charles Dance plays the villain! Even I am curious about this one, not enough to catch it in the theater though…

    Funny tidbit, the main actor is best known for playing a dopey dad in a bunch of supermarket commercials. Casting him as a badass hero… let’s say it’s an interesting choice.

    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j21t1i_SiKI

  4. Just saw SKIN TRADE, Vern. I think you’ll be pleased with it. There’s a nice Tony Jaa vs Michael Jai White match up there.

  5. I like these Man With The Iron Fist films in concept more then in execution. However, after being very disappointed by the first film I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this one as much as I did. I think this could be a solid DTV series if the RZA keeps at it. Maybe eventually he will make a really good one, and I don’t say that to be snarky. I would love to see the RZA lead a DTV Kung Fu revival.

    Vern, is the commentary track with the RZA & the director worth checking out?

  6. Also, Master Ho looks distractingly like the Asian James Franco.

  7. Charles – the commentary track is decent, but not as good as I was hoping as a big fan of RZA’s commentary on THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN. And RZA leaves about halfway through only to come back to say goodbye during the end credits. But it does have some good information about how it was shot (they used alot of drone cameras) and how their collaboration worked.

  8. Nicely thought out review sir, was a pleasure to be one of the few behind the scenes crew to be asked back for the sequel, although Universal did manage to spell my name wrong in opening credits…Mike Leder indeed!

    Yes Seng Stunts https://www.facebook.com/Seng.Stunt.Team handled the action, very talented group of folk

    Yes Carl Ng son of HK legend Richard Ng is in fine form as the villainous Ho by name and Ho by nature!

    Hopefully the film will do well enough to ensure a third adventure for the Blacksmith…..

  9. Thanks Vern, I will check out the commentary track. At least the part with the RZA.

  10. Knox Harrington

    April 26th, 2015 at 5:04 am

    Oh well, I guess now I’ll have to give this one a shot.

    It might just be the first Roel Reine movie I like, since I really wasn’t very fond of the first THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. My problem with all the other Reine sequels has always been that I think their predecessors are far superior. I liked the first MARINE way more than the second (never watched the third) and also enjoyed the first DEATH RACE waaaaaay more that DEATH RACE 2, which bored me to tears (except for the bits where I get to spot local South African actors and crew. R.I.P. Greg Cameron). Also, never watched DEATH RACE: INFERNO.

    Good to hear RZA has a bit of spark in this one.

  11. I liked this movie. Never seen the first one but anything with RZA punching people til they die is good enough for me. Nice locations too.

  12. I liked this one. Roel Rein, a.k.a “The Sequelizer” keeps delivering. Pretty satisfying episodic adventure in the life of The Man with The Iron Fists. Good fights, plenty of great gore and C-H-T gets a pretty good role as well. Always a welcome presence. As Vern mentioned, the movie also looks at time pretty stunning for a lowbrow DTV-sequel. I think it´s worth a look. It has less of that colourful Shaw Brothers-esque aestethic of the original. I want more sequels. preferebly by The Sequelizer.

  13. RZA is a guest on a new tv show tonight, “Super Into” on TruTV. I just watched the Diablo Cody episode and it was alright. Unconventional content, the kind of thing that’s trying to be more interesting than the standard celebrity-worship bullshit of late night comedy or Charlie Rose or whatever. The host seems to know what he’s doing.

    RZA apparently will talk about his love for martial arts and such, as that is what he is super into. I assume the episode will be available online in a couple days for those of you who don’t subscribe to the satellite/cable tv cartel.

  14. The villain in this was great and he had a terrific arsenal of off-color putdowns. My favorite was, “You bastard maggots of whoring mongrel dogs!” If that isn’t a bumper sticker I don’t know what is.

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