IN his multiple functions as director, co-writer and lead actor in this ornate, violent actioner played out in a remote Chinese village late in the 19th century, Robert Diggs calls himself RZA.
He plays a blacksmith concerned for his neighbours as bandit factions surround the village where a chest of gold tribute awaits delivery to the emperor in the capital. This situation is dramatically simple. What can be done to give the film complexity and bite?
The answer is Russell Crowe playing Jack Knife, a British soldier of fortune who, on arriving, heads straight to the up-market brothel where his friend Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu) and her girls await the arrival of all those hairy sweaty randy clients. What’s more important for those bravos? Stealing the gold or getting their rocks off?
The film tries to have an each way bet through full-on violence, augmented by special visual effects, blood, destruction and death, uncomplicated by either intellect or morality. By the time the emperor’s troops arrive, the brothel is a body-strewn wreck.
Death’s choreography is impressive. “The Man with the Iron Fists” is no better or worse than the rest of its kind. If you must watch it, you may safely leave your brain at home.