There’s a difference between loving a film genre and having any talent to emulate it — and RZA, the legendary rapper/musician and founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, proves it in the jumbled mess that is “The Man With the Iron Fists.”
RZA makes his directorial debut in this homage to ’70s kung-fu action movies, which he also co-wrote and stars in as the Blacksmith, maker of weapons for the warring clans in Jungle Village in feudal China. The Blacksmith is a reluctant warmonger, saving up money so he and his girlfriend, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), can buy her way out of servitude to the village’s brother owner, Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu).
Trouble’s brewing, though, when the traitorous Silver Lion (Byron Mann) murders clan leader Gold Lion (Kuan Tai Chen) and takes over the Lion clan. Silver Lion then mounts a plot to steal a shipment of government gold, employing a slew of henchmen, the toughest being the invincible Brass Body (former WWE champ Dave Bautista). Gold Lion’s son Zen Yi (Rick Yune) vows revenge, and enlists both the Blacksmith and by the government’s secret envoy, the rough-and-tumble Englishman Jack Knife (Russell Crowe).
As an actor, RZA is so inexpressive that he leaves a donut hole in his movie surrounded by craziness, as the non-stop action destroys half the scenery and Crowe chews up the rest.
As a director, following a script he wrote with “Hostel” director Eli Roth, RZA oversees an unending series of fight sequences where it’s difficult to keep track of who’s fighting whom. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except that the scenes are so choppily edited and randomly shot that it’s impossible to enjoy the martial-arts choreography of Cory Yuen (“X-Men,” “The Expendables”). In the end, “The Man With the Iron Fists” is too chaotic to pack any real punch.
‘The Man With the Iron Fists’
This mash-up of ’70s kung-fu movies is a bloody mess from start to finish.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Now open.
Rating • R for bloody violence, strong sexuality, language and brief drug use.
Running time • 96 minutes.