The Man With the Iron Fists [Blu-Ray] RZA

The Man With the Iron Fists [Blu-Ray] RZA
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Just having a fondness for a medium doesn't mean that one is well suited to creating within it. Anyone who has ever listened to a Wu-Tang album is well aware of RZA's love for Kung-Fu movies. However, it should now be abundantly clear to anyone who watches his "love letter" to the genre that he has no business making one. But his celebrity is great enough that tonally confused cine-mash-up The Man With the Iron Fists was bankrolled and completed with all the associated self-indulgence of a delusional vanity project. Not that it's in any way vital to the project, but there's something resembling a plot to the rap mogul's shoddily realized action hero fantasy. Needlessly convoluted every step of the way, the film is built upon the search for a mythic gold treasure by a wacky cross-section of characters. Two opposing factions of Chinese warriors run up against a portly British pervert lamely named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), a brothel madam (Lucy Liu) leading a flock of prostitute assassins and a humble blacksmith (RZA) with a mysterious past. For a movie obsessed with badly choreographed fight scenes that are transparently obscured by even worse editing, extreme gore and chaste depictions of sexuality, RZA spends a frustrating amount of time pretending that anyone would be interested in the saggy, faux-dramatics of a largely atrocious cast. As poor as the man responsible is behind the camera, he's even worse in front of it. It's entirely possible, and indeed probable that this is precisely the point of the film: to be one giant farce. There's no way that the overt ridiculousness — some Chinese actors have accents, others do not; subtitles are arbitrary; costumes and makeup exceedingly fake; and anachronisms abound — isn't at least largely intentional. Even so, Iron Fists is tedious, excessive, far from funny and even further from being enjoyable by any but the most superficially minded audiences — the set-design is opulent and the film quality is glossy. To make RZA's intentions even more uncertain, the director/co-writer/star's contributions to the Blu-Ray's special features show a man who doesn't appear to be joking. "A Look Inside" is a brief dose of self-aggrandizing promotion and name-dropping; it's not a look inside anything except RZA's apparently empty head. "A Path to the East' is just as brief and just as vapid, claiming shooting on location in China as the pinnacle of authenticity. Only a tiny bit more substantial is "On the Set," which might be more revealing than the director realizes. Through the mini-clips, RZA assumes that he knows more about filmmaking than the experienced professionals around him and admits to pissing off his director of photography, all the while spouting sound bites of the type of mangled Zen philosophy that pollutes the film. For anyone who actually enjoyed sitting through the extended cut of this bloated, nonsensical hogwash, there are also a handful of deleted scenes. Please, RZA, stick to rap — the soundtrack is the only part of the experience that didn't make seppuku sound more appealing than watching another frame. (Universal)