Man with the Iron Fists, The (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Alternative Version-Unrated Version (107:26)
Deleted Scenes-x 5 (24:09)
Featurette-A Look Inside The Man With the Iron Fists (2:01)
Featurette-A Path to the East (2:27)
Featurette-On the Set with RA (5:11)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 95:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By RZA
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring RZA
Russell Crowe
Lucy Liu
Rick Yune
Jamie Chung
Byron Mann
Cung Le
Gordon Liu
Dave Bautista
Daniel Wu
Grace Huang
Andrew Lin
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI Rental Music RZA
Howard Drossin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French dts 5.1
Italian dts 5.1
German dts 5.1
Spanish dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Italian
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The Man with the Iron Fists was very much a vanity project for rapper RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, who starred, directed, wrote the screenplay with Eli Roth and co-composed the score with Howard Drossin. RZA was a long term fan of classic Shaw Brothers martial arts films; for example he provided an audio commentary on the Dragon Dynasty USA release of the kung-fu classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978); The Man with the Iron Fists is his homage to those classic Shaw Brothers films, even going so far as to get Gordon Liu, the star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, to appear in the role of the Abbott in The Man With the Iron Fists. Gordon Liu also appeared in Quinten Tarantino’s own homage to kung -fu classics, Kill Bill: Volume 1 & 2 (2003/ 2004), as did Lucy Liu and The Man With the Iron Fists is “presented” by Quinten Tarantino; another connection is a cameo by Pam Grier.

     A shipment of the Chinese Emperor’s gold is due to pass through Jungle Village, a town racked by violence between warring clans. The most dominant is the Lion Clan led by Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le) after they had orchestrated the murder of their leader, Gold Lion. Also in the mix in Jungle Village is the humble village Blacksmith (RZA), a mysterious Englishman Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu), the proprietor of the Pink Blossom house of ill repute, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung), a hostess at the Pink Blossom and lover of the Blacksmith, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), the eldest son of the murdered Gold Lion, the fighter Bronze Body (Dave Bautista) who can turn his body into metal and is thus impervious to edged weapons, the assassin Poison Dagger (Daniel Wu), who actually uses poison darts, and the Gemini Twins (Grace Huang / Andrew Lin) who are tasked with escorting the gold. All interact amid furious kung fu action, blood, gore and mayhem, although coherent plotting is considered to be an optional extra.

     RZA clearly had watched a lot of kung-fu films and The Man with the Iron Fists throws together, in no particular order, all the staples and clichés; warring clans, exotically designed edged weapons, a warrior seeking revenge, a comic sidekick, an almost invincible fighter, fights in a tea house, inn and brothel with furniture and fittings smashed to bits, female warriors, poison darts, gold, a hidden tomb and a sample of Buddhist philosophy but then it adds things not so common in the Shaw Brothers films such as a negro blacksmith hero and an “English” mystery man. The Man with the Iron Fists is also more bloody than the classic kung-fu films with entrails exposed, copious spirts of blood as knives pierce necks and bloody amputations of limbs (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) (but when the Blacksmith’s arms are chopped off he makes himself metal arms and hands, becoming “The Man with the Iron Fists”). None of it makes a lot of sense, so the Blacksmith provides a helpful voice-over narration. It does not help that many of the cast overact to the extent of mugging, with Byron Mann, sporting a killer pair of sunglasses, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu preeminent, while much of the dialogue is clichéd and risible.

     However, it is not mandatory for kung-fu films to make much sense, it is the action that is important. The action choreographer for The Man with the Iron Fists was Corey Yuen, who has an impressive pedigree having worked on films including Hero (1997) and Rise of the Legend (2014) and having won two Hong Kong Golden Horse Awards for The Legend (1993) and Thunderbolt (1995). His problem here was that his main stars were not martial artists so while there is a lot of flowing wire work the fight scenes where edited into short cuts and included fast and slow motion sections and split screens with the loud effects of breaking bones, the clang of weapons, the swish of bodies flying through the air, the crash of walls, furniture and fittings, all accompanied by loud music; the result was an incoherent chaos of noise and movement that is exuberant enough to satisfy action junkies.

     There is far too much going on in The Man with the Iron Fists for the film’s running time (apparently RZA’s first version of the film ran for four hours) and not much of it makes sense but the exuberance of the film’s action, the impressive village set including the spectacular red, pink and golden colours of the Pink Blossom bordello, and the beautiful Chinese locations such as the hill top monastery and temple, means that, despite its self-indulgent flaws, The Man with the Iron Fists is a guilty pleasure and is almost as impossible to dislike as it is to take it seriously!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Man with the Iron Fists is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The film was shot using Red One MX cameras and it looks spectacular; the dull grey of the poorer village streets and houses, the bright green of the forest, the vivid red, pink and gold of the Pink Blossom, the brilliant gold of the Governor’s audience chamber are all vivid colours. Costumes, with the exception of the beautiful white costumes worn by Lucy Liu or the white clothes of the Abbott, are dark but finely detailed, as is close-ups of dirt on faces. Crimson red blood spurts and sprays around during the fights as knives are stuck through necks, bodies and limbs. Blacks are pristine and shadow detail exceptional within the Blacksmith’s forge and at night; the print also handles perfectly the sequence in the climax with movement, darkness, flame and mirrors. Skin tones are good, contrast and brightness consistent, marks and artefacts absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available plus a range of European languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
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Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 plus French, Spanish, German and Italian Dolby DTS 5.1.

     This is an extremely aggressive audio track. During the fights it is all go around the sound stage with the clash of weapons, the swish of bodies flying through the air, the crash and boom of the destruction of walls, furniture and fittings, the whoosh of darts or arrows, the crunch of breaking bones plus the loud music. In the non-action scenes there are always muted voices in the village, the inn and the Pink Blossom, horses’ hooves, insects in the forest, running water, rain and thunder. RZA mumbles his dialogue, but otherwise the dialogue is clear. The score by RZA and Howard Drossin is as eclectic as the film incorporating music that includes rap, jaunty orchestral themes, sections that would not be out of place in a spaghetti western and power ballads. It was often quite intrusive. The subwoofer was active, adding boom and rumble to many scenes of chaos.

     Given the various nationalities involved, the lip synchronisation was good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     When the menu opens you have the option of selecting the Theatrical version or the Unrated version of the film to watch.

Unrated Version (107:26)

     An overview of the differences between the versions can be found here. The most significant difference occurs during the closing credits of the unrated version when screens open showing how Zen Yi’s lover Chi Chi (Zhu Zhu), whom we met briefly at the start of the film, is abducted by the Eagle Clan and imprisoned in a cage in an eyrie. Zen Yi then arrives in Jungle Village and asks the Blacksmith for help to rescue Chi Chi, thus setting up a sequel to The Man with the Iron Fists. And, indeed, a sequel The Man with the Iron Fists 2 was made in 2015 but it turns out to be completely unrelated to this scenario at the end of The Man with the Iron Fists with only RZA in the cast, a new story and a different director.

Deleted Scenes (24:09)

     Five deleted scenes with a Play All option. The scenes are:

    The most important of these is a long (over 14 minutes) introduction to Gold Lion undertaking to protect the gold shipment; parts of this sequence is used in the film, such as bits of the fight against the Hyenas at the dinner which starts the film; wires used in the fight have not been erased from the print!

A Look Inside The Man With the Iron Fists (2:01)

     A kind of trailer for the film touted by RZA talking about why he did the film and the music.

A Path to the East (2:27)

     On set footage and comments by RZA, two producers and the production designer about why they came to China and used a Chinese crew rather than filming in the USA.

On the Set with RZA (5:11)

     Five short EPK featurettes with on-set footage and comments by RZA and cowriter Eli Roth. Nothing much of any value and there is a Play All option. The sections are:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Except for some language and subtitle options this release of The Man with the Iron Fists is the same as the US Region Free Blu-ray.

Summary

     The Man with the Iron Fists is what happens when you get an artist passionate about a project but with a total lack of restraint. It is confusing, loud, chaotic and quite bloody (earning its MA rating), full of overacting and clumsy dialogue but the sets, especially the Pink Blossom, and the locations look stunning and the technical presentation is impressive. Classic Shaw Brothers kung-fu it ain’t, but with your brain in neutral you can enjoy the film’s exuberance, colour and chaos.

     The video and audio are impressive. The extras are lightweight, but we get everything that is available elsewhere including the Unrated version of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, May 06, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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