Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Man with the Iron Fists 2

I really loved the The Man with the Iron Fists. I went to see it with my girlfriend back in late 2012, and that early into the relationship it proved to be a good test for what kind of films we both liked. Martial arts? Check! Action? Check! Mystical shit? Check! A man with iron fists as weapons? Check! Needless to say we had common ground, so when I sat down to watch this sequel with her by my side over two years later, it kind of felt special. However, as much as I thought The Man with the Iron Fists was a lot of fun, it didn't do especially well in the cinema. It just about broke even but with high Blu-Ray/DVD sales comes the enviable Direct-to-video sequel, so here we are. However, the question is, is it any good?

 Directed by Roel Reiné and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Man with the Iron Fists 2, a film that while not as good as the first film, is a fun flick full of martial arts, ass kicking and a f*cking awesome soundtrack. Since hearing his work in both Kill Bill 1 & 2, I've been a bit of a fan of RZA, founder of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. He's a massive fan of martial arts films, and aside from learning various fighting styles himself, he's shaped his life through cherry picking certain aspects of  Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity. This amalgamation of beliefs, ideals and styles runs deep throughout his music as well as his directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fists. RZA, like the first film, wrote and stars in this sequel, but this time he didn't direct it. A shame too, as though his love for martial arts is very much visible here, it doesn't have the same spark as the first film did.

The story is pretty simple, but it does a really good job of reintroducing the main character, and setting up the last explosive third act of the film. RZA once again takes on the role of Thaddeus aka The Blacksmith aka The Man with the Iron Fists. While he started the first film under the thumb of two deadly clans, The Man with the Iron Fists 2 begins with his quest for inner peace. Journey to the Wu Chi Temple in order to chill out with a few monks, Thaddeus is attacked by brother of Silver Lion, a character he killed in the first film. Though he defeats them he tumbles into a river, and on deaths door he is pulled downstream. This eventually leads to him being revived by some villagers of a small town that's been harassed by some local bad guys. Using his blacksmith skills (as well as his iron fists, of course), Thaddeus decides to help them fend off the slavers who are taking them into the nearby mines to work. It's basic stuff, but at the end of the day a martial arts film doesn't need to have a convoluted story.

With a pretty serviceable plot set in place The Man with the Iron Fists 2 does a pretty decent job with everything else. Performances are pretty solid but nothing truly stands out as memorable. In the first film Russell Crowe played Jack Knife, a British Soldier that is addicted to opium and prostitutes. The character was incredibly over the top, funny and pretty badass, and though there are a nice new selection of characters in this sequel, no one gets close to what Crowe did with Jack Knife. His absence is missed here, but with RZA, Dustin Nguyen (who essentially is the films second leading character), the always entertaining Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Grace Huang (reprising her role from the first film) headlining the cast, it's not completely devoid of talent. I especially liked Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's villain character, Lord Pi. He's a completely shithead, as in one scene after a miner complains about his blunt weapon, Tagawa's character proves its sharp by beheading the poor mine slave.

Naturally, the most entertaining aspects of the film for me were the fight scenes. Though The Man with the Iron Fists had far more fantastical characters, this sequel doesn't cut back on the bone breaking fights. Though they're drip fed to the viewer throughout, the last third act of the film just goes insane, and does a great job of crafting some great, large fight scenes with what was no doubt a very small budget. Again, they're not as good as they were in the first film, but compared to most of the other Direct-to-video shit out there, The Man with the Iron Fists 2 is genuinely a cut above the rest. The editing during certain fight scenes is a little janky in some places too, and this often takes the impact and momentum out of them at times.

Basically, a smaller budget has essentially created a slightly inferior The Man with the Iron Fists, and this is true in terms of visual design, fight scenes, performances and editing. But considering the budget for this sequel would have been way smaller than what the first film had, I can easily see past most of these issues. The fight scenes are still pretty fun, there are some genuinely stunning exterior filming locations, the RZA/Howard Drossin soundtrack is incredible and, at the end of the day, I'd rather see a low-budget The Man with the Iron Fists 2 than no The Man with the Iron Fists 2 at all.

The Man with the Iron Fists 2  is low on budget but high of ass kicking with a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

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