Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Man with the Iron Fists (R - 95 minutes)

There are many many bad martial arts movies out there.  I fell in love with them in the 80s, but they gained popularity in the early 70s as the "kung-fu movie" became a trend and gained popularity - beginning with the stateside rise of Bruce Lee in 1971.  As with other pure action films, most martial arts films mainly action and fight scenes, with minimal plot and character development.  Martial arts were still fairly new in the United States, and these roles were played by actors who are real martial artists - in addition to accenting their skills with wirework, springboards, and trampolines.  The majority of the early films were dubbed (poorly) into English and broadcast on weekend TV, in Kung Fu Theater, or Black Belt Theater.  My favorite is Enter the Dragon - from 1973...basically the beginning of the American infatuation:

The members of the WuTang clan (  RZA, GZA, Method man, RedMan, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck,U_God, Masta Killa, and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard) used to get together and watch these films together, leading them to use the 'kung-fu' mentality in the foundation of their rap group.  Several members had been acting on and off for years, and RZA (Robert Diggs) decided to write and direct a tribute to the kung-fu movies they loved. 

He had been working on a script for four years with his friend (and director) Eli Roth.  His first cut of the film was four hours, but Roth convinced him to cut it down to 95 minutes:  a much more reasonable length for this type of flick.
In the small Chinese town: Jungle Village, there are several different animal-themed clans vying for power (lion, wolf, hyena, tiger, rat, spider, etc.).  The emporer sends a shipment of gold through the village, asking Golden Lion, the respectable head of the Lion clan to protect it.  He is ambushed by his second in command, Silver Lion - who steals the gold for himself, and then must fend off Golden Lion's son: the X-Blade, a rogue British Soldier, the head of the local whorehouse, and RZA, the town's blacksmith who is simply trying to raise enough money to run off with his lady love.  That's the simple version, but there are different little twists and turns and interactions.  It's bloody, brutal, crazy, over-the-top, and really entertaining.
I think that the RZA will develop into a good director.  He does a decent job with this movie, and my main complaint is that I wish the fight scenes were filmed further back.  All the actors do their own fighting, I would have liked to see the fights completely, instead of the choice the put the camera right into the fight.  The scenes and sets are beautiful and colorful, and the movie does bring back the feel of those movies from the 70s. 
The cast is fantastic and really seem to be enjoying themselves:
  • RZA plays the aforementioned blacksmith, and is absolutely a better director than an actor, at least at this point.  He plays it smart in that the blacksmith is quiet and stoic for the beginning of the movie, and doesn't have much emoting to do until his backstory is revealed.  He's fine, not great, but fine.
  • Rick Yune (a former hedgefund trader on Wall Street) plays Zen Yi - the X-Blade, who boasts a suit of blades that pop out from various areas.  He enters the fray to avenge his father Golden Lion.  He's the typical good-guy, determined and honor-bound.
  • Russell Crowe is so much better in this than I have seen him recently.  He met RZA on the set of the Next Three Days (rent that - it's good) and agreed to be in this despite only having 10 days of availability.  He looks like he is having a blast playing the rogue British soldier, who may or may not have a secret agenda.
  • Lucy Lui is playing a character very similar to her character from Kill Bill - but again, looks like she is having a great time.  She requested the fight she has with Cung Lee's Bronze Lion, to demonstrate her character's fighting skill.  She plays the madam of Jungle Village's whorehouse, who also may or may not have a secret agenda (there's a lot of secret agendas in this movie).
  • Cung Le plays Bronze Lion and is a multiple champion in various martial arts championships. He has almost no lines in this movie, and is really here for the action. 
  • Dave Bautista from the WWE plays Brass Body, a character who seems to have a brass body.  This makes him almost impervious to damage...unless of course, a character remembers a particular kung fu lesson about pressure points in a flashback...  Dave is suprisingly good in this and has a great ease on screen.  I hope that he does more movies after this.
  • Jamie Chung plays the blacksmith's love who is, of course, working in the whorehouse as the blacksmith raises enough money to free both of them.  She has little to do, but is better in this than she was in SuckerPunch, or...I liked this so much more than I liked SuckerPunch (I hated that movie).
  • Byron Mann plays Silver Lion and absolutely runs away with this movie.  He looks like he is having an amazing time playing the main villian.  He is equal parts funny and frightening in his pursuit of the gold and is the perfect character for this movie.
If you are in any way nostalgic for the kung-fu movies of old....go check this out.  You'll have a good time.  It delivers exactly what it promises and a whole bunch of fun.  I look forward to more directing by RZA, but maybe not more acting.
7 out of 10.  Gained points for Dave - really good!  Lost points for all the blood and guts - ick.  Gained points for the lack of PTS - which I was really expecting in this! 
Bonus video 1:  Game of Death trailer - where the yellow jumpsuit really came from:
Bonus Video 2:  My favorite ninja movie - American Ninja 2!
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews!
Extra Bonus: our Podcast review of this movie:  http://hesawshesawfilm.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/the-man-with-the-iron-fist/

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