The Man with the Iron Fists

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Quentin Tarantino should be sincerely flattered right now. Rapper and musician RZA (who also worked on the score for Tarantino’s Kill Bill), has just directed his own schlocky debut feature, The Man with the Iron Fists. Spoiler alert: the titular Man is RZA himself. While certainly not impressive, RZA’s debut film is relatively entertaining; equal parts good and bad.

RZA plays a cool-headed blacksmith living in China where he is paid rather royally to basically outfit all the rivaling clans with weapons they can use to kill each other. The blacksmith also narrates the film in that uniquely lispy urban poetry-like voice he has going for him. It’s frankly one of my favorite things about the whole movie, despite his less-than-remarkable acting.

The story starts off a little sloppy in its narrative, and keeping track of all the rival gangs is almost laughable in itself (maybe intentionally?), but by the middle of the film when things take a turn for the worst for the blacksmith, the story (which up until then was disposable), becomes a little more gripping. Unfortunately, storyline, directing style, set design, characters, nor props in many cases can be seen as anything original and it seems that inspiration for RZA seems to have quite obviously come from Tarantino’s Kill Bill, or the more widely seen martial arts cult classics such as Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.

The problem with a movie like this is, it’s trying hard to imitate and be inspired by these types of grindhouse movies where it’s more about sensationalism than plot and filmmaking. But what we now look at as cult classics or grindhouse genre films are just movies that were doing what they could with what they had back when they were made, probably not even trying to fall into the trash cinema classification which they have since then (retroactively marketably) fallen into. RZA, however, has the assistance of Tarantino (a master in his craft of revitalizing the cult and trash cinema genres to critical acclaim), way more resources and budget than many of the films he’s trying to channel from the ’70s and ’80s, and yet Iron Fists still looks cheaper and is weaker than most of those predecessors.

Tarantino gives the film a lift with his name attached, of course, and maybe that will help with marketing it to QT devotees, and even smartly help increase the awareness and anticipation for Tarantino’s latest revitalization, Django Unchained. There’s even a special trailer for the film running prior to Iron Fists, where QT himself intros it (also giving props to “his man” RZA’s film you’re about to see).  So see, it really all comes down to advertising, and if I was just a tad more cynical, I’d even go so far as to suggest RZA only got the damn greenlight for this film because of the beautiful marketing opportunities it would present.

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Machete is Real

Robert Rodriguez has seriously done a 180 on us, the man responsible for starting in low-budget filmmaking and making an awesome first film as a result (El Mariachi), only to eventually get big enough that he could develop his own studio and go on to make summer blockbusting hits (Spy Kids, Sin City), has turned his three-minute fake trailer from Grindhouse into a real-live chop ’em up film.

Yep, if you’ve seen Grindhouse, you know how awesome Planet Terror was (in comparison to the crescendo of a film Quentin Tarantino offered – Death Proof). Don’t get me wrong, Death Proof is awesome too, but not when played after Planet Terror. Those two films should not be played back-to-back. But I digress, if you’ve seen Grindhouse, you no doubt recall the story of Machete and who the titular character is; it was quite memorable for its purpose. Well, Danny Trejo is back for the feature and so are some other familiar faces.*

Hopefully though, before this hits theaters on Labor Day, Rodriguez will spend a little more money on it than it looks like he has, and at least get the post department (wait, isn’t that him?) to apply some more “dust and scratches” filter to this thing, cause right now it’s not looking so grindhousey, it’s just looking poorly made.

*Not to mention: Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Segal, Don Johnson, Rose McGowan, Tom Savini and Cheech Marin!