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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wu Tang Clan goes Wushu, Shaw Brothers style

Question: What do you get when a member of '90s hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan and 'Hostel' director Eli Roth make a kung-fu/wushu movie?  Well, if you say something of a mess you won't be far off, but then you also have to give them props for making the attempt with such infectious fun.  'The Man with the Iron Fists' is every bit what you would expect of a collaboration between RZA and Roth, a somewhat messy yet fun spoof of the chop-socky '70s kung-fu/wushu films of the Shaw Brothers era.
 
TMWTIF is a parody of sorts, though not as dumb or obnoxious as Steve Oedekerk's low brow Bruce Lee tribute 'Kung Pow: Enter the Fist' back in 2002.  Set in 19th Century China, the movie tells the tale of a former slave who became a master blacksmith/weapon maker in China (RZA).  But no, it is also a story of good and evil, honor and betrayal, murder and revenge.  In other words, what any self-deserving kung-fu movie should be about, as long as they set us up for some cool kung-fu fightin'.
 
The movie is done in the tongue-in-cheek style of the popular spaghetti-westerns of Sergio Leone.  There's even an unlikely hero in the movie, played by Russell Crowe, who's a cowboy and wields a knife (hence his name 'Jack Knife') that looks like a six-shooter.  Much of the movie is set in the best little whorehouse in Texas, ahem, a popular hangout in Jungle Village (no kidding, that's the name of the movie's Chinese village setting) called the Pink Blossom Inn run by none other than Lucy Liu, aka Madam Blossom. 
 
True, the kung-fu/wushu purist in me rebels at the travesty that is TMWTIF, but it's made with such glee and abandon that I find it difficult not to fall for its charms.  It's a homage to the Golden Age of Shaw Brothers movies, and I can drink to that.
 
Grade: B+
 
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