Friday Fisticuffs: The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

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I love The Man With The Iron Fists on two related levels. First and foremost, this is a capital A awesome movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and revels in the grime and grit of old school Hong Kong action movies but upgrades everything from the fight scenes and weapons to the quality of the actors and shooting. The second level that I dig about this movie is that it’s clearly RZA (who directed, co-wrote with Cabin Fever and Hostel’s Eli Roth and also starred in) making one of his dreams come true.  I don’t know much about him, but I do know that the Wu-Tang member loved these kinds of movies as a kid and eventually proved to people with money that he could do one himself. I think anyone who has a creative streak in them or a longtime fandom for a particular genre can relate to that idea.

For what it’s worth, I watched this movie on Blu-ray which looked awesome and went with the extended cut. I’m not sure what made it different from the theatrical one, but figured I should put that out there.

The story itself revolves around a town called Jungle Village that’s got all kinds of misfits and killers hanging around. RZA is the blacksmith in town and helps build some wild weapons for all the different animal-themed factions. There’s a lot of gold coming into town, plenty of betrayal and backstabbing and a war is brewing between the different groups. Meanwhile, Russell Crowe’s Jack Knife has rolled into town and seems to be a good guy. He teams up with RZA as well as Rick Yune’s Zen Yi who sports a knife suit.

I should note that most of the story details of this film are pretty rote. Raise your hand when you read something unique. RZA is in love with a prostitute who says she wants to run away with him. He believes her and sacrifices his moral integrity by making weapons for terrible people to further his own agenda. That doesn’t go so well, he gets attacked and winds up developing iron hands for himself that he can control thanks to his chi. That last part probably raised some hands which exemplifies an interesting aspect of the film, as cool as it looks and as rad as the fight scenes come off, the most unique aspects of this film revolve around the weapons. Just about everyone wields (or is) a weapon that I haven’t really seen on screen before (or at least not done in such a way) that they make already engrossing fights all the more interesting. I was working on something while watching this movie and found myself transfixed every time a fight scene kicked off.

And that’s what this movie’s all about at it’s core: cool fight scenes with rad weapons. If you’re looking for something with a little more depth, this isn’t your movie, but if you want to see Russell Crowe shoot a guy in the head with a knife gun or two fighters use ice skater-like moves to kill dudes, give The Man With The Iron Fists a watch.

Just Finished: Nash Bridges Season 1 Disc 1 (1996)

Did anyone else watch Nash Bridges back when it was on between 1996 and 2001? I did, for most of if not all of the run. It was one of those shows that my whole family liked and, watching the first four or five episodes on DVD brought back all kinds of memories. I’m shocked at how well I remember a good deal of these episodes and specific scenes. There’s one part in the episode after the pilot where Nash is in a car chase with a camper, it’s leaking oil, he shoots something underneath the camper and a piece of metal falls down and starts sparking which blows the camper up. I remembered it moment by moment and remember sitting on the end of my couch when I was 13. Crazy. Aside from nostalgia, the other reason I’m going back and watching Nash Bridges is because Carlton Cuse or Lost-fame was a creator and producer. There isn’t anything Lost-like about the show itself aside from the high quality and story that you’d expect from a Cuse show.

The basic idea behind the show is that Don Johnson’s Nash is a top cop in San Francisco teaming up with his former cop buddy Joe played by Cheech Marin. Nash may be a perfect cop, but his personal life is all over the place with two ex-wives, a teenage daughter and a father with Alzheimer’s. The show is very bright thanks to the costume and set design and everything looks really unique because, as it turns out, Johnson wanted it that way and had a good eye for these kinds of things. The episodes are pretty standard cop drama, but, for the time, the characters were really fresh and interesting. Like I said, Nash is flawed, Joe’s having problems with his wife. Then there’s a few other cops like Harvey who is a huge Grateful Dead fan and Evan who is the young turk, techhead. It’s pretty funny listening to them talk about tech stuff considering this came out 14 years ago. The pilot even revolves around some stolen computer processors.

In addition to watching all the episodes on the disc which I really enjoyed, I also watched and listened to all the extra features. There was one featurette with Cuse and a group of other producers and writers from the show talking about what it was like to work on a show like this which revolved around a star like Johnson. Everyone seemed to be saying Johnson was hard to work with, yet really knew what he was talking about when it came to filming, locations, color and lighting, without actually saying the former.

There’s a commentary with just Johnson on the last episode of the disc that confirms this with a confused or sick sounding Johnson mailing pointing out broad strokes like what kind of lighting setting something was, architecture, costuming and a few other technical things. He actually refers to comics (both American and Japanese) quite a few times when referencing the color and on-screen technology. I thought that was pretty cool, didn’t know he was a comic fan. There are long periods of silence and the commentary could have greatly benefited from someone in the room. I’m not sure if Johnson is in good health or not, but he went from sounding confused to very lucid, which makes me wonder if he was actually recorded at two different times. I hope he’s doing alright, dude’s only 61.

There’s one other commentary which goes along with the pilot episode featuring Cuse and Cheech which was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of the same information as Cuse explains how Cheech got involved in the show, but overall it was a lot of fun. Unlike Johnson, Cheech still sounds completely on his game and made me laugh several times. Cuse sounds just like he does on your average Lost Podcast (a must for Lost fans) and has a great memory for the elements of the series. There’s lots of interesting talk about how some characters just fade into the background because there isn’t much story potential and that sort of thing. They also pointed out an appearance by Lucy Liu that I had missed so that was cool.

All in all this is a really fun show to watch. I doubt I’ll burn through the DVDs like I did with shows like Mad Men, Buffy, Doctor Who or Big Love, but I will enjoy going through a disc every now and then. As of now, only the first two seasons are out on DVD. Paramount started releasing them in 2008 with 1 and then 2 last year. I’m hoping for a bit more of a push this year or at least the ability to watch them on the NetBox.