The Man With The Iron Fists
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit RZA’s feature debut, "The Man With The Iron Fists," was a bit of a disappointment. Having spent two decades with the Wu-Tang Clan paying tribute to the Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema; RZA went off to craft a film that melded the hip hop community he came from with his kung-fu obsession. Basically, he’s thrown a bunch of character actors together (himself, Lucy Liu, Russell Crowe, and others) around the flimsiest ’battle for gold’ plot you could find, hoping to recreate the gritty straight-to-the-point pleasures of 70s grindhouse films.
And yeah, the fights are cool, the soundtrack is fine, and the visual design is excellent. But thanks to his modest aims - basically to make a feature-length genre tribute, nothing more - and also to a hatchet job in the editing room, what we saw in theatres was much less than the product of its best parts.
Luckily, this isn’t what we saw in theatres. The film, which was once cut incoherently (i.e., at one point an enemy literally flies, with wings, down onto the screen and poses - he’s then never seen again,) now has a chance to ’breathe.’ There’s more character work in between the fights. Cameo appearances, like one from Blaxploitation legend Pam Grier, now feature in 2 or 3 scenes each instead of just one. Some of the other major editing problems - like overusing split-screen in an attempt to replicate the stylings of comic book panels - remain. This is no overhaul. But at least the movie is starting to make sense.
And there are a number of other features to keep fans satisfied past the too-short running time. The featurettes - little one minute pieces discussing the production design, or the on-location shoot in China - are easily digestible and pretty much unnecessary. But the deleted scenes, of which we have almost a half hour (in addition to the 15 minutes already added to the film itself,) are about as good as anything in the movie proper. About 15 minutes comprise an entire subplot about ’Gold Lion,’ cut out of the films opening, and Russell Crowe’s MVP performance as ’Jack Knife’ gets a debauched alternate intro.
All the extras are almost enough to make me a full-fledged "Iron Fists" convert. They help us see what RZA was going for, but unfortunately, he didn’t quite get there.
"The Man With The Iron Fists"
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack