THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (RZA). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (November 2). See listings. Rating: NNN
The Man With The Iron Fists is kung fu to the power of hip-hop, featuring chop-socky smackdowns set to the Wu-Tang Clan's lyrics and beats.
It's is a clumsy pastiche of Shaw Brothers films, but RZA's talents are not entirely lost. His unique blend of East Coast rhymes and East Asian cinema serves the Wu-Tang albums well, and now it distinguishes his directing and starring debut.
RZA delivers a dull performance as Blacksmith, the titular man with the fists, who forges weapons in China's deadly Jungle Village, where a whole lot of gold-chasing baddies are about to make the place look like a Bloody Caesar.
Thrown into the mix are Russell Crowe's voracious Jack Knife, Lucy Liu's cunning brothel owner Madame Blossom, Dave Bautista (of WWE fame) as foe Brass Body and Rick Yune's X-Blade, whose armour has so many sharp edges that he resembles a high-flying porcupine.
These people aren't so much characters as walking fighting styles, though Crowe, Liu and Byron Mann as the villainous Silver Lion do relish their moments.
There's plenty of thrilling acrobatics, but RZA often doesn't know where to place the camera, losing some of the action off screen. He's also working with a hackneyed script (which he co-wrote with Eli Roth), but the movie is no worse than those it emulates.
Iron Fists does manage to hit the mark whenever RZA sets his reverence aside and puts a personal touch on all the blood-splattering. It's a flawed film, but one that remains endearing and entertaining.