Russell Crowe wearing tiny glasses. The main antagonist’s striking resemblance to David Bowie in “Labyrinth.” Awkward cannibal jokes made by a sassy old man.
These are the things I remember most clearly about “The Man with the Iron Fists,” a new martial arts film directed and co-written by RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), who scored a “presented by” credit from Quentin Tarantino.
I think anyone with an ounce of patience and a sense of humor will tell you they have a soft spot for enjoyably bad films. A bad film that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve absolutely wasted an hour or so of your life is a real gem, and RZA’s martial arts mess is a diamond in the rough.
In a small Chinese village in the 19th century, the Blacksmith (RZA) finds himself in the middle of a series of increasingly violent altercations between warring clans who use his deadly weapons. After one clan brutally dismembers him, the Blacksmith vows to protect the village from further violence with his newest, greatest, most miraculously functional weapon: iron fists.
He finds allies in Zen Yi, the X-Blade (Rick Yune), son of the Lion Clan’s murdered leader out for vengeance against David Bowie — um, I mean, Silver Lion (Byron Mann) — and Jack Knife (Crowe), an opium-addicted badass hired to protect government gold (a current source of clan conflict) passing through the village.
Yeah, the plot seemed a little threadbare to me. But the gratuitous violence and cartoonish special effects, combined with stiffly-delivered corny dialogue and bizarre costume and hair/makeup choices, is enough to make you almost admire the forgettable premise. I mean, as far as the costumes go, the highlight was Jack Knife’s tiny, tiny glasses. He was basically an anthropomorphic cartoon mole with those frames gingerly perched on the tip of his nose, and it kind of made the film for me.
The film may have been a joke, but it was one I needed to take. There’s just a little more than a month until this semester is over. If you’re graduating in December, like I am, you’re freaking out, and if you’re not, you’re still freaking out. And if your personal life is also as hectic as your academic life, you’re probably spending a lot of time taking things too seriously. Sometimes you just need to see a film that makes you belly laugh out of sheer bafflement as you question how it even received funding. Sometimes it’s the best thing for you, even if, by the time you get to the parking lot, all you can remember are the wonderfully poor costume choices.