Which brings us to this week's entry.
...and I couldn't have asked for a better image pertaining to it to preface this one.
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that when a film's director is a hardcore fan, it can be a really dicey prospect. Sometimes, they work well. In other cases...well, there are certainly some directors who know their way around discussing a genre with the best of them, but their contributions leave something to be desired. Ironically, the biggest example of this I can think of is actually also attached to this movie.
Thankfully, however, this one is one of the above-mentioned cases of it working well. After years of being an outspoken fan of martial arts movies, Wu-Tang Clan alum RZA has finally made his own entry into the field with The Man With the Iron Fists. (For those wondering, the example was referring to above was Eli Roth, who co-wrote this film with RZA.)
and who might be the Wolf Tribe member with his face obscured here...I know he was one of them, just not sure if he is for this shot or not.
Part of what makes this film work well, especially as a directorial debut, is the fact that it actually manages to carry both the elements of style of a lot of classic martial arts films. However, it still carries a lot of its own elements as well. You immediately get a sense this will be something different in the movie's opening sequence (with, for a nice touch, credits in both Chinese and English) as two warrior tribes engage in a swift and brutal fight set to Wu-Tang Clan's 'Shame on a Nuh.' As strange as it may sound on paper, the sequence is a fresh blast to watch play out, and really helps set the tone for a lot of the rest of the film.
Suffice it to say, this isn't a film people are going to for its deep and involving plot or characters. In fact, the story takes something of a backseat in the long run. There certainly is one, involving elements of revenge, betrayal, and a shipment of gold that gets waylaid in the war-riddled town of Jungle Village. For the most part though, the movie is really moved along by its impressive action sequences and the larger than life characters that all get caught up in the chaos.
One example of a whole line of these promo posters they did for the cast on this film. I have to admit, I kind of want to track these down.
...and yes, I did say earlier that the cast was not really deep or involving, they really aren't meant to be in the first place. Regardless, they're still damned fun to watch, which really helps keep the movie lively, even between the action sequences. It actually says something that it's hard to really pick any one person I can say stood out in this team over anyone else. Among some of the examples of the people that all throw in for gold, revenge, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time we have:
-The Blacksmith (RZA now wearing a third hat on this production), an outsider in the village who is content to just run his smithy. Of course, given he's the sole maker of weapons in the village, it's only a matter of time before he's getting pulled in, whether he wants it or not.
-The X-Blade (Rick Yune), the son of a clan leader that was betrayed and murdered. He comes into the village seeking payback, and sporting a suit of knives (it's exactly what it sounds like) to help him get the job done
-Jack Knife (Russell Crowe, who certainly seems to be having fun with the role), a British officer with a love of booze and women who blows into Jungle Village seemingly just looking for a good time. His skills and curiosity, however, suggest he has more than just casual tourism in mind.
-Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu), a brothel madam who, like Jack, certainly has much more on the table than casual prostitution shenanigans.
-Silver Lion (Byron Mann), the man who killed the X-Blade's father and who is now plotting with the mysterious Poison Dagger (Daniel Wu) to take over the Village and the gold.
-Brass Body (David Bautista), an assassin part of a presumed dead tribe whose abilities render his body...well, as his name suggests, he's almost literally a walking tank.
With these players and gold in the mix, saying 'All Hell breaks loose' is a gross understatement.
In fact, if it DIDN'T break loose, I'd be wondering what the Hell happened to this movie.
Between some amusing dialogue, RZA's first time direction, and editing by Joe D'Augustine, the film flies along at a surprisingly brisk pace. Even in the downtime between fights, things don't really feel like they're just dragging to get to the next fight. Though the fights ARE still quite impressive, as even the throwdowns between the proverbial faceless minions are still done with a high level of energy and choreography that makes them a blast to watch. In particular, the film's three-part final showdown, which leads me to invoke a phrase I'm usually loath to apply for how rarely it seems accurate, feels almost like something from a live-action anime (because really, there is no other phrase that can really describe it for me there.)
This film probably won't wind up coming up around awards season. In fact, I'm not sure it's even going to make my own top 5 this year. That said however, DAMN, this was a fun movie. It knows what it wants to be and doesn't try to fool you otherwise - you go in with the promise of an over-the-top insane kung-fu throwdown, and the film delivers on that with a vengeance. With this as his first effort, I'm genuinely interested to see what RZA may have lined up for future projects after this.
Also, this movie marks the beginning of Russell Crowe's invoking the South Park plan this season
AND FOIGHTIN' ROUND THE WOOOORLD!
AND FOIGHTIN' ROUND THE WOOOORLD!
Till this Friday, where the momentum keeps going for good or ill.