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RZA's movie pays homage to kung-fu classics

Martial arts film incorporates hip-hop, action

By Cheyenne Gallon, associate editor
On November 14, 2012

  • Hip-hop artist RZA of the well-known group the Wu-Tang Clan directs, writes and stars in the martial arts film “Man with the Iron Fists,” which was released Nov. 2. Special to / The Advocate

As the producer and leader of the East Coast hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA and its members have long used their love for the Asian culture in their music.
Now RZA has transferred that love to filmmaking with his debut film "Man with the Iron Fists."
Released on Nov. 2 the rapper takes it one step further than actor Sylvester Stallone in "The Expendables" series by not just directing, writing and starring, but also providing the soundtrack, making sure audiences know the film is his creation from top to bottom.
The plot centers on the leader of the Lion Clan, Golden Lion, who is responsible for transferring gold to its leader White Lion. Before he can do so, however, he is betrayed by his fellow associates Bronze Lion (MMA fighter Chung Le) and Silver Lion (actor Byron Mann) who  ends up becoming the clan's new leader with plans to keep the gold for himself.
His scheme leads the clan into the fictional town of Jungle Village, where RZA's character works as a blacksmith making high-end weaponry for the gangs who reside there. His goal is to make enough money so he can leave with his girlfriend Lady Silk who works as a prostitute at a brothel.
During the course of the movie, the cast is joined by Russell Crowe as the British soldier Jack Knife, actress Lucy Liu as the brothel owner Madam Blossom and former WWE superstar Dave Bautista as a the mercenary Brass Body.
A modern throwback to past martial arts films of the 1970s and 1980s, "Man with the Iron Fists" contains a handful of intense action scenes of fights between the primary characters.
For example, fights between Madam Blossom and Bronze Lion, as well as Zen Yi battling one of the rival gangs, stand out as the top bouts of the movie.
RZA does a fantastic job with the soundtrack mixing in his roots of hip-hop with traditional Chinese music giving the audiences' ears a variety of sounds to experience.
The problems with the film are with RZA himself whose character, while decent, remains dry throughout. As a result, he falls by the wayside compared to the other entertaining cast members.
He is also the one who narrates the entire story, which does not make the movie any better, leaving people to listen to his monotone voice and heavy Brooklyn accent that clashes with the film's content.
The dialogue does not bring plot depth to "Man with the Iron Fists," but the film is a homage to kung-fu flicks which were, no doubt, just as cheesy 20 to 30 years ago, so not too many points can be taken off for it.
Since this is the rapper's first film, it is surely bound to have a few mistakes, so one cannot completely hold it against him.
The lifeless acting deducted from the movie's potential, the corny dialogue and generic story left little to be desired and the overuse of special effects were a bit much.

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