“Po-mo grindhouse” was my friend Luke’s description of this film. It’s a throwback to the Hong Kong martial arts films of the ’70s, updated with new visual techniques but basically busting the same solid genre moves. It’s very gory and testosterone-laden. No nudity, but plenty of raw sexual innuendo. Good fight sequences, with choreography by Hong Kong veteran Corey Yuen. Director RZA is also the lead actor, which is probably the biggest flaw in the film, since he doesn’t have much screen presence.
The story is convoluted, which is appropriate to the genre, but basically a village clan is taken over by some nasty characters, and they plot to rob gold from the government. Our three heroes are the son of the murdered leader of the clan, a village blacksmith (RZA), and a mysterious British agent (Russell Crowe). All sides converge on a brothel run by Lucy Liu. Mayhem and severed limbs ensue.
It’s all very well executed, if not very exciting. Perhaps the most interesting twist is the backstory of the blacksmith, which we get in a flashback. He’s a former slave who was freed by his slave-owning father. (His mother is played by Pam Greer in a cameo.) He murders a white man and has to flee the country, and when he reaches China he’s taken in by Buddhist priests. (Cameo by the great Gordon Liu.)
The Man with the Iron Fists is “presented” by Quentin Tarantino and co-written and co-produced by Eli Roth, and it has grindhouse film nerd fingerprints all over it. It’s clearly a labor of love, and it benefits from the TLC, blood-soaked as it is.