Riding The Line
By: Chris "DOC" Bushley
As the cold winds batter the east coast and the promise of winter creeps in your bones, a break from reality is sorely needed. What better way to stave off the impending flakes of snow than gathering the boys for a martial arts matinee? The Man With The Iron Fists would fit the bill nicely!
This love letter to martial arts movie - written, directed and "somewhat" starring Rza of The Wu Tang Clan fame - is a nice escape movie that leaves you gawking at the fight sequences while not entirely scratching your head over the weak story. Not entirely, but you will still find your hand wandering to your scalp in a unconscious effort to do it anyway! Let's face facts, no one is going to see this movie because of the award winning plot anyway. It is a cornucopia of all the great martial arts movies you saw as a kid, with a few anime threads thrown in for good measure. You will see nothing new here, but at the end of the day -- will you really care? You will still leave with plenty of action, blood and solid acting from Lucy Liu, Rick Yune and Byron Mann to satiate your hunger, but it is Russell Crowe's performance that will stand out after the credits have run.
The character of Jack Knife (Crowe) is the iconic rogue character that everyone wants to be. A cool weapon a six shooter dagger that spins- a gliding swagger, sexually deviant and an overall aura of genuine "coolness," Jack Knife is what carries this movie at points over the line of mediocrity. He is the character that is at the epicenter of all the plot threads, and for me, the highlight of the film.
Not that the martial arts sequences are anything to laugh at! Intense and utterly brutal, they are the fluidity of the movie, making the 96 minute film seem to fly by even quicker than intended. All the sequences are extremely well done, giving a few new tricks to the old status quo, but it is the Gemini battle that is especially harrowing and gets the adrenaline flowing. Unfortunately, the action sequences and Mr.Crowe's suave role are the only driving force to keep you in your seat instead of heading for a bathroom break or dozing off from the patchwork underlying story.
The story is nothing special. The typical betrayal, revenge, good vs. evil plot that sets the characters in motion, but has no true significance at all. Even when the Blacksmith's (Rza) origin is told, there is no better connection to the character than the first time you see him on screen. He is so generic that the viewer has no real empathy for him even when terrible things occur. For the "star" character to be overshadowed by every other character, even the children, is a travesty to the script. But then again, did you think this was going to win an Oscar?
Overall, this is a kung fu homage that was well executed for its purpose. Weak story aside, the overall performances were solid and the action was insane! It rides the line of mediocrity but never falls too far down the rabbit hole nor ascends far above it! See it with a group of friends but don't expect too much. I suggest you use a coupon to get your full moneys worth!