The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

(On Cable TV, September 2013) Writer/director/actor RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists is a welcome throwback to the historical martial-arts fantasy subgenre, with good performances from people you wouldn’t necessarily expect in that kind of film.  While the back-story of RZA’s historical universe is complex, the plot itself becomes a well-assorted series of fights between characters, often with super-natural powers.  RZA himself is a bit dull in the honorific title role, but the film’s most remarkable performances come from scene-stealing Russell Crowe (as “Jack Knife”, a hedonistic western knife-fighter) and Lucy Liu (as a bordello madam not to be crossed), alongside such notables as Rick Yune, Cung Le and Byron Mann.  It’s all meant in good fun, although the strong gore factor takes away a bit of the enjoyment for viewers who like their fighting action to be a bit cleaner.  While The Man with the Iron Fists isn’t all that special in its own subgenre, it’s an endearing attempt as a pastiche, and the American origin of the film doesn’t really betray its indebtedness to an entire genre of Asian cinema.  It may best be seen by viewers who, like me, used to like a lot of that stuff and are now looking for some more.

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