quick review: the man with the iron fists

I blew off work one afternoon last week (something I can do with a pretty clear conscience every once in a while considering how many nights, weekends, and holidays I do work) to unplug my brain. After grabbing lunch downtown, I headed over to the multiplexes (there are two within a block, which is terribly convenient if you like making up your mind at the last minute). I don't care about hobbits, the timing was off for Argo, and I just wasn't up for anything too serious.

So I saw The Man With the Iron Fists.

This is basically a kung-fu movie written, directed by, and starring the RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame). If you have even a passing familiarity with The Wu, this should come as no surprise; he's obsessed with this stuff.

There's really no point in trying to summarize the plot, because it's basically the same as every kung-fu movie ever made. Clans are fighting, someone kills someone's father, the son goes for revenge, bad people kill more people, the hero emerges with some sort of special power or weapon (hint: it's usually in the title), evil is defeated--often at a great price--peace returns, the end. Either this works for you or it doesn't.

And it has to be said: either the RZA is a savant at imitating literally the style of a somewhat impenetrable story and dialog translated from Chinese into English, or he's just not a very good writer. And his acting is...well let's just say he didn't do his acting career any favors by directing himself.

BUT...I think he has real potential as a director.

The movie has its flaws, but it looks great. The fight scenes are elaborate, but not overly so. He lingers on some really nicely composed shots, but shows some actual restraint in the whole slowing-down-time department. He lets his best acting talent (Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu) carry their scenes. And perhaps most impressively in this era of every action film being a 2.5 hour assault on the senses: it clocks in at a well-paced 90 minutes.

Don't get me wrong; I don't think RZA is going to be the next Scorsese or anything. But I'd definitely shell out the $11 to watch something else from him long before I'd sign up for another CGI abortion by Micheal Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer.

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