Ever wondered what happened after the Blacksmith left Jungle Village? Did anyone particularly care? Fans were already hoping for A Better Tomorrow, only to be somewhat disappointed by the album’s direction… but that’s another review on this site.
All along, during the album’s development, little did fans know that a sequel was in the works for The Man with the Iron Fists. Those who enjoyed the first movie were surprised and excited, while those who didn’t simply sneered at the idea. Even with Tarantino’s guidance, the first film didn’t bring the box office success that RZA had hoped for. With the sequel going directly to DVD, and without a star-studded cast this time round, did RZA learn from his directorial mistakes from the first film?
The adventure starts off basically where the first film left off. RZA reprises his role as the Blacksmith ‘Thaddeus’, who left Jungle Village and went on a journey to find peace. But his old enemies led by Silver Lion caught up with him and tried to finish him off. Silver Lion thought he had killed Thaddeus, only that Thaddeus crushed his skull in the process first. Thaddeus, left for dead, found himself laying on a raft, eventually been rescued by strangers and brought him to another land. This land had a ruthless ruler in Master Ho (Carl Ng) who had slaves work for him in the caves to discover silver… at least that’s what he made them believe. Failure to comply would instantly meet death and held with a stake through their body on display for everyone to see as an example.
The strangers who rescued Thaddeus were wife and daughter to Li Kung (Dustin Nguyen) who became leader of the slave rebellion. He and his brother had learned Mantis Kung Fu to go against Master Ho’s Beetle clan. Younger brother Li Guang (Charlie Ruedpokanaon) defeated one of the Beetle clan’s esteemed fighters, but Master Ho had Li Guang killed in the caves for showing up the Beetle Clan.
Li Kung decides to take revenge by challenging Master Ho himself… Li Kung was on the brink of defeat when a rejuvenated Thaddeus comes to the rescue in gratitude to Li Kung and his family saving him from certain death.
Meanwhile women in the village were being mysteriously killed, their bodies shrivelled up to a prune like state by what was believed to be the spirit of Lord Pi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa of Mortal Kombat Fame). Lord Pi was a wicked man and was captured in battle. As a result he had his legs chopped off by order of the Abbott. He had been since confined to a wheelchair and was known as Mayor Zhang.
Realising who Thaddeus was, Li Kung asks him to make weapons to aid fight against the Beetle Clan. Thaddeus initially refuses, but remembers Buddha’s teachings. What’s more, the slave miners were not actually digging for silver, it was in fact a water source that can bring forth immortality. So if Master Ho got his hands on that, it would be curtains for everybody. The water source originated from the shaolin temple so Li Kung alerts the Abbott that their water source was in danger.
Mayor Zhang wished to join the fight against the Beetle Clan as their actions were reprehensible, so Thaddeus decides to make iron legs for him and by using chi, is able to walk again, but the blacksmith was unaware of his real intentions – get his hands on the water source and become the evil Lord Pi once again. Betrayal, Li Kung and Thaddeus combine their force to defeat Lord Pi for good.
In this film we see that RZA has toned down the Tarantino trademark effects and tried to focus more on the fight sequences to let the viewer actually see what is happening with the fight choreography like the old school kung fu flicks. The violence is still all there though, so the exaggerated blood effects remain (pints of blood leaving bodies who had their limbs chopped off). Also gone were the Tarantino inspired names of characters like Jack Knife, Gold Lion, Brass Body etc and replaced with more authentic, believable names. The music score became more cinematic than a hip hop vibe found in the first film, but some of those beats in this film sounded like they could have made A Better Tomorrow. Again, that’s another review altogether. Shout outs to Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge as their instrumental track ‘Enemies All Around Me’ from the album ’12 Reasons To Die’ made the film, shout out to Talib Kweli & Busta Rhymes, whose RZA produced track – Rocket Ships from the Prisoner of Conscious album made the film, and special shout out to Zack Hemsey for his track ‘Teachings of a Ronin’ which set the epic tone for the final showdown against the Beetle Clan.
The film had a ‘Mortal Kombat’ like atmosphere, so if RZA was to remake the Mortal Kombat film franchise based on the characters in the latest game on the next-gen consoles, RZA would make a tremendous job. The other thing worth noting, is that if RZA likes to play characters who engage in combat, he could at least learn more basic kung fu. He admits to not knowing much martial arts, but if you are gonna be the star/villain, eventually you will be exposed. Back in 96-97 fans loved the ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Night the Earth Cried’ videos, but playing roles like this and the villain in Tony Jaa’s The Protector 2/Warrior King 2, fans will notice RZA’s particular lack of skills. As far as the main villains, It’s understandable how Lord Pi met his demise, but particularly Master Ho, who claims he’d been hanged once, bullwhipped twice, shot at 8 times (50 Cent’s record still unbeaten), dragged behind horses 15 times, and had his left testicle chewed off, these guys should have met a demise the likes of which even Ed Boon couldn’t think of as a fatality. Very disappointing.
Again, it’s not ‘The Raid’, it’s not ‘Ip Man’, so throw those expectations out of the window. But also remember, this isn’t ‘American Ninja’ either, and it sure as hell isn’t ‘Kung Fu’ starring the late David Carradine. God Bless RZA, the film is watchable because it’s him. His narration is borderline cheesy, but he’s forgiven, fans love to hear RZA’s voice anyway. Furthermore his narration carries through into Ghostface’s 12 Reasons albums (Look out for the review of Part 2 soon.) The ending of this film may indicate that there could be a third instalment on the way… Let that sink in, think of it what you will but films like to come in three’s like waiting for the bus.