The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

by Jaime Grijalba.

What a great way to end the year that with another apology. For the past few years I’ve been making another set of lists, one that I create at the start of every year and that I post after I post my top 10 (or 20) movies of the year. That list is about the movies that I expect to see more coming the year we’re in. So, I make the promise that I’ll see and review every movie on that top 10 list, and while I don’t always manage to see all 10 (release problems or delays) I usually review every one I managed to see, except this year. I had a bunch of problems, time constraints and other things that prevented me to review two of my most anticipated films of the year and that I actually saw: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012) and ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (2012). Nevertheless, both of these movies I thought were masterpieces, so they already have their own entries in the work for this blog, so they’ll be written up in no time, but another movie from the list that I saw and had to write up was this one, and I must review it before the year is gone, its a promise… and well, as you might’ve already guessed, it’s not a masterpiece… but it’s not really the opposite either… can we call it, maybe, a misstep, a unguided shot in the dark, an enjoyable mess?

At the point I did this list, I chose this film because it was produced by Eli Roth, and the stories behind it were interesting, a movie shot in China by a rapper who also starred in the film about a man with iron fists, that it would be violent and bloody, and reminding of the early exploitation/martial arts movies that the Shaw Bros. used to produce in the early years of the boom of karate and kung fu. It became more apparent that it was an homage, a send-off when Quentin Tarantino came on board and lent his name to the promotional material when it was released with many posters, trailers and voiceovers saying ‘Quentin Tarantino Presents… The Man with the Iron Fists’, even if he had nothing to do with it, and even if he has said that he has wanted to make a kung fu movie by himself with subtitles in english and bad dubbing (as the movies he watched when he grew up), and I don’t know how much the flop that this movie was will affect the prospects that this movie has for the future, because I do want to see a kung fu movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, and maybe Eli Roth with the RZA have damaged those chances forever by making a movie that feels as if nothing has happened, but at the same time you feel that many things have happened but that they just don’t make sense.

It has been said in press materials that the initial cut of this film is 4 hours, and that it was an epic that manifested elements from chinese story as well as elements from this american that has been lost in China for long years, but instead we get glimpses of longer stories, with an emphasys on the sex and the brothel parts of the story instead of what the plot is actually about: the transport of some pieces of gold and their destiny now that the sender is dead… or at least that’s what I think the main plot of the film is, unless I’m wrong and we should be paying attention to the whore fiancee of the blacksmith that has his arms cut off so he has to make a couple of iron fists so he can fight again (how do they work? I don’t know, but what I know is that it’s a 90 minute film and we see the iron fists around the minute 60, and little much else). I feel myself cheated and a bit guilty after watching it and reviewing it so harshly, but maybe it’s because it’s edited so badly, because the fun is there, there are fights and choreographies that look and feel interesting, but at the end there are no characters, just glimpses, dips in the ocean, and nothing terribly interesting or at stake that we can care about. I wish one day we can see the 4 hour cut, maybe then we can see the masterpiece that this was supposed to be at the start.



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