A Wu Tang sort of Waste­land

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS ★★★

Di­rected by RZA. Star­ring RZA, Rus­sell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Jamie Chung

gen­eral re­lease, 95 min

16 cert, Thanks to Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and var­i­ous camp fol­low­ers, we now live in a world where vi­o­lent kitsch has taken on the sta­tus of re­spectable art. Ques­tion the worth of such beasts and you risk be­ing clas­si­fied as an un­speak­ably fusty port drinker.

The in­es­timable rap­per RZA – whose work with the Wu Tang Clan is drenched in mar­tial arts – tests our tol­er­a­tion of the form to break­ing point (and of­ten be­yond) with this over­long, in­dif­fer­ently acted trib­ute to clas­sic wuxia and low-rent 1970s kung fu. But he just about gets away with it.

This is, al­most cer­tainly, the only re­view that will com­pare The Man with the Iron Fists to The Waste­land. The film does, how­ever, have this in com­mon with the TS Eliot poem: un­der­stand­ing the ref­er­ences will en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence, but tol­er­a­ble sense can be made of the work with­out such knowl­edge.

Writ­ten (with bi­b­li­cal in­evitabil­ity) by Eli Roth, the script has some­thing to do with a clan chief whose gold is stolen by a bru­tal ban­dit (Ka­ja­goo­goo-haired By­ron Mann). Em­bold­ened, the thug then ad­vances on Jun­gle City – a wild- west town in all but lo­ca­tion – where they even­tu­ally have to face down RZA’s mut­ter­ing, barely co­her­ent black­smith, Rick Yune’s suave boxer, and a fat drunk played, very con­vinc­ingly, by Rus­sell Crowe.

Le­gend has it that RZA had a three-hour cut in mind. The mind bog­gles. The cur­rent ver­sion has just enough ac­tion and suf­fi­cient broad jokes to strug­gle its way past the 90-minute mark. One is oc­ca­sion­ally in­fu­ri­ated by the arch­ness of the ex­er­cise. But there is a charm­ing in­no­cence to Fists’ faith in the val­ues of 1970s cross­cul­tural ex­ploita­tion.

You could al­most call the thing quaint (though not to RZA’s face).

A fist­ful of rub­bish: RZA gets me­dieval in The Man with the Iron Fists

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