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Man With the Iron Fists, The (Blu-ray Review)

9 Feb, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 2/12/13
Box Office $15.63 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, strong sexuality, language and brief drug use.
Stars RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu,
David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Byron Mann.

While the evolution of rappers becoming actors and directors in Hollywood isn’t new, cinematic diversity can result in a movie that’s so beyond ridiculous, it’s good.

Kung fu actioner The Man With the Iron Fists turns the genre on its head, infusing Quentin Tarantino’s sensibilities with a liberal dose of hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (Bobby Diggs) — the latter in his directorial debut.

Co-written (with horror helmer Eli Roth) and headlining RZA, the rapper plays Blacksmith, who, as the name implies, is a cutlery artisan attempting to save enough coin so he and his escort girlfriend Lady Silk (“Real World” alum Jamie Chung) can split from Chinese backwater Jungle Village to greener pastures.

Taking place in feudal China, there is no need for complex storylines (or plot for that matter) with myriad backstabbing (literally) wannabes determined to snatch the emperor’s gold, hidden overnight in the basement of a whorehouse run by Madam Blossom (expertly played by Lucy Liu).

Upstairs, vacationing British solider Jack Knife (bored and portly Russell Crowe) seeks only the finest female form, alcohol and solitude. Fat chance with a veritable who’s who of martial arts royalty — and WWE wrestler Dave Bautista as merciless assassin Brass Body — coming to town.

“Money makes people funny,” Blacksmith says.

Shot in 52 days on location in and around Shanghai on a $15 million budget, the 400-member largely Chinese crew impressively photographs and choreographs the live-action sequences — each one bloodier than the previous (thanks to CGI). Interestingly, due to China’s prohibition of pornographic images, women in sex scenes are clothed — which filmmakers nonetheless do not fail to exploit.

RZA’s homage and dedication to kung fu and Bruce Lee (he’s been a fan since the age of 11), coupled with an infusion of hip-hop, classic soul and Tarantino’s support, helps deliver a visually engaging film — however awkward the rapper’s acting and voiceovers turn out to be at times.

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