Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quick Review: The Man With the Iron Fists

Review: I was very excited when this movie came out. It looked like it was right up my alley with it's over the top kung-fu action that was promised in the trailer. I meant to see it right away but didn't get around to it until now via redbox.

Well I think I raised my expectations a little too high. From what I could tell this was going to be an insane, over the top, non-stop action flick based around grindhouse era kung fu. I was partially right. The beginning opened with a bang. It is a huge, bloody fight with some great organic effects for the most part. Sadly this was one of the most exciting parts of the movie. Once this was done there was surprisingly little action for a movie billed as an action movie. Now one cannot expect these to literally be non-stop action ala Crank. But I felt that a bit too much story was shoved down your throat. It felt more like a Chinese historical period piece at times, actually, but with some urban attitude from RZA.
Now I wouldn't consider the story bad, just a bit lost. I like these Chinese war stories of battling kingdoms and clan, I think they're exciting and they take me into a different culture that I'm not used to (makes me wonder why I've never gotten into the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games), in other words it's not WWII from an American perspective AGAIN! But I think the main problem was that RZA may have been trying a little too hard in his writing. It states on the movie's IMDB trivia page that he and Eli Roth worked on this story over the course of two years. That on top of hearing the rough cut of the movie was 4 hours long and at one time considered to be two movies means there's a lot of information missing. I even watched the extended cut so I can only wonder how butchered the original, theatrical version was. If you're gonna have story in an action movie that's okay, just make it more engaging and less crammed, that will make the action sequences even more satisfying cause they are fighting for something you actually care about.
Which of course brings me to the action sequences. The scene in the beginning and at the end were pretty balls to the wall amazing in their stunts. Blood and guts everywhere with awesome choreography and use of many types of blades and other weapons. But the problem is that a lot of the best material was either at the start of the movie or the end of the movie. There were a few things here and there in-between but it was very brief. And again it's not a big deal if a movie like this doesn't have a ton of action as long as the little of it is effective, but the way this was advertised gave off a bit of an unrealistic expectation. A little like Immortals a couple years back. Both this and that should have been more awesome than they were, but they depended too much focus of little elements that make up the movie as a whole.
Then the last thing I wanted to talk about were the performances, which weren't really there. Everything felt bland and forced. Probably one of the better performances was from Russell Crowe but I felt he was just acting like himself throughout anyway. Not to mention his character felt really out of place and didn't belong. Also, I felt it was very narcissistic for RZA to play the lead role as the blacksmith. He should have put more of a focus on his directing and to get someone who can carry a fight scene better. Watching him fighting was... really awkward. It was just... so... I can't quite put my finger on it but it felt weird. Everyone else was pretty much forgettable with the exception of Lucy Liu who is typically pretty awesome at what she does. Definitely not an acting power house here.

I was just really disappointed with something that should have been better. In the end it should have been longer to flesh out it's rushed and un-identifiable story. And the idea of making it two movies would have been pretty sweet and could have been another Kill Bill type scenario, but with a new ip from a director who doesn't exactly have a lot of credit as a director doesn't give a lot of hope in the business for it to be released that way. Hence why Kill Bill DID get to do that right off the bat and this didn't.
It certainly wasn't all bad. Like I did say earlier there was some pretty amazing fight sequences here. Also a lot of the ideas with the characters and the story were really neat. The contrast of elements between the man made of brass and the man with the iron fists for example. Also how he got to the point of iron fists isn't what I was expecting, but in a good way. Then lastly the story of how RZA got to China by fleeing the slave driven south in early America was also really cool. I did enjoy that. It's just a shame these elements weren't fleshed out more or given better attention to make it all a better movie as a whole.
In the end it's another case of somewhat false advertising. That and trying to cram too much movie into too little time, even in the extended cut. That may not even be RZA's fault though, that could be Universal talking. However what was put out there was not as good as it could have been potentially. I could talk more on it but it would just be more repetitious than anything. Maybe I need to see it again to appreciate what it is instead of harping on why it wasn't what I wanted it to be. But forcing myself to like it won't make me like it any more. Maybe again eventually down the line when I'm up to it. Until then I'll just live with the disappointment I had for what this could have been.

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