Archive for the RZA Category

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (2015)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Dustin Nguyen, Grace Huang, RZA with tags , , on August 3, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring RZA, Dustin Nguyen, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Carl Ng, Grace Huang

Fight Choreography by Kawee Sirikhanaerat

Directed by Roel Reine

Back long ago, I had heard of this group called the Wu Tang Clan, and being the kung fu junkie myself, I fell in love with their music, and their knowledge and love of kung fu films that permeate nearly every track they did. I even had the original playstation Wu Tang Clan video game (I loved it). I had always wondered why no one was using their music in actual martial arts films for years. I even hoped they would make a film themselves. While that never came to pass the way I wanted it to, the RZA, after working on Kill Bill, seemed to get bitten by the bug to make something. I was excited by the prospect…

Until I remembered that 1. The RZA isn’t an actor and 2. He isn’t a skilled martial artist. I roasted his first effort which you can read here, and I was disappointed in how it turned into a kung fu film that got invaded by the X-Men. I also disliked the fact that rather than finding a great African-American martial artist, new or otherwise, to play Thaddeus, he chose himself. That decision brought the entire film crashing down, despite the fact that as a directorial debut, it wasn’t bad, and many people agreed. The soundtrack was awesome, and had the film lived up to the music, we would be heralding it as a classic film. Now comes the sequel, without a Russell Crowe, Dave Bautista, or Lucy Liu. Not to mention a much smaller budget that the first film.

In many ways, the smaller budget actually improved this film over the first. But two items derail everything. More on that later.

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The film picks up not long after the first one, and we find Thaddeus (RZA) traveling to the Wu Chi temple, in order to fix his chi and live a peaceful life. Of course marauders led by the brother of Silver Lion, a character Thaddeus killed in the first film, attacks Thaddeus, and though he defeats them, Thaddeus injured, and falls into the river and is carried away. Meanwhile, in the village of Tsai Fu, the people there are practically enslaved to work in the silver mines by Master Ho. Master Ho is a nasty piece of work, killing whomever he chooses and treating the villagers as disposable goods. Li Kung (Nguyen) leads the people, but they are growing tired of his unwillingness to fight. The Town Mayor (CHT) does what Master Ho tells him, but behind his back helps Li Kung as best he can. Before long Thaddeus is found drifting in the river near them, and  Li Kung’s daughter, Innocence, takes him in to heal him. Thaddeus and Li Kung find themselves allied against Master Ho, but little do they suspect that an even greater threat to the people is about to be unleashed…

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This isn’t a great film. It’s not even good. It’s…mediocre. It just sits there, does its thing, and leaves without any great impression left. The acting is passable, with two exceptions. One is Dustin Nguyen, who made for a great hero as the conflicted Lu Kung. The film had the good sense to make him the real star of the film, and he delivers. If you’ve seen the work the former 21 Jumpstreet star has done in Vietnam with The Rebel and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, and films like Zero Tolerence, you wouldn’t be surprised at this. The second exception? Well, the RZA, again, is terrible here, less than passable, with no onscreen charisma to speak of. The script doesn’t help them out as the dialogue is basic and not out of place from one of the Star Wars prequel films. The overall story isn’t bad, kinda generic, but could have been a cool little film except for the shortcomings. The editing is also a bit lackluster during the fight scenes, but gets better toward the end. CHT isn’t in the film nearly enough, and toward the end he goes Shang Tsung on everybody so much so I expected him to say “Let Mortal Kombat Begin!” at one point. Grace Huang is also in the film but only as a cameo as one of the Gemini Twins, the only other characters to return from the first film.

The music, once again, is really the best thing about the film, and the RZA knocks it out of the park. I think some of the music comes from the first film just remixed, but that’s okay. I loved it in the first film, and I have zero problems revisiting it here. I did find it odd that director Noel Reine also handled the camerawork. It’s two really big hats to wear on a production like this, and I wonder if it affected the quality of the final product.

The fight scenes with Dustin Nguyen are pretty good, nothing truly memorable, but good. The RZA, on the other hand, is better than the first film, but still his lack of martial arts skills, and the lack of acting skills to make anyone believe he IS a great martial artist. The finale is the only kinda-gory effects work in the film, and at least here it’s put to better use. The best thing the RZA does is to let Dustin Nguyen carry the heavy loads during the fight scenes.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

A passable film by the RZA that once again misses the mark due to the RZA’s lack of acting and true martial arts skill. Dustin Nguyen does a great job here, but it’s not enough.

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The Protector 2 has a new trailer! Featuring Tony Jaa and Marrese Crump!

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, RZA, Tony Jaa on August 29, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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I was already pumped for this film, and I’ve heard from some people who saw the first trailer that there was too much CGI. There was some, but I trust Panna Rittikrai to pull off some amazing non-CGI fights, and that’s the message this trailer looks to deliver here.  The CGI is probably simply an enhancement for the 3D aspect of the film. I trust the filmmakers, so I have faith there won’t be too much of it. Besides,  with Jeeja Yanin, Dan Chupong, and Patrick Kazu Tang aboard, I doubt this will be anything less than awesome. Kinda reminds me of the Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao/Sammo Hung classics.

So watch the trailer below and sound off in the comments (as if I have to ask you to watch!)

 

The Kiai-Kick Podcast is here! So what’s up, Hollywood?!

Posted in Gina Carano, Jackie Chan, RZA with tags , on May 5, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

 

Julius Carry The Last Dragon

My inaugural episode in which I look at the future of Hollywood in martial art cinema, and some comments about Wellgo USA and Dragon Dynasty! Click the player below! I hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Posted in Andrew Lin, Chen Kuan-Tai, Corey Yuen, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Grace Huang, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, RZA with tags , on November 3, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung,Byron Mann, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Chen Tai Kuan, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Grace Huang, Andrew Lin, Dennis Chan, Pam Grier

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by RZA

The Wu Tang Clan is without a doubt one of the best hip hop groups of all time, basing their music on their love of kung fu films, and even their names professed their love for the genre, all taken from kung-fu films: RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killah, and U-God. The 36 Chambers, of course taken from Gordon Liu’s 36 Chambers of Shaolin, is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, and even some of their music videos show off Shaw Brothers inspired kung fu fight scenes. So of course when word came that RZA was making his own kung-fu film excitement spread among his fans due to his love and pedigree. With an assortment of current and old school stars, we now have The Man With The Iron Fists.

The film follows the exploits of three heroes: Blacksmith (RZA), an escaped slave that came to the small town of Jungle Village in China after his ship crashed, and becomes a renowned weaponsmith, who hopes to make enough money to buy prostitute Lady Silk (Chung) whom he is in love with from Madame Blossom, who runs one of the best whore houses in China.

The second hero is Jack Knife (Crowe), a vulgar British man who arrives to Jungle Village, waiting on a shipment of gold to arrive sent from the Emperor.

The third hero is Zen Yi (Yune), son of Gold Lion (Chen), who is the head of the Lion Clan, who comes to Jungle Village to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of his lieutenants Bronze Lion (Le) and Silver Lion (Mann) and Poison Dagger (Wu).

Jungle Village is soon overrun with men who arrive to attempt to steal the gold shipment when it arrives, and the Lion Clan succeed in doing so, killing the Gemini Clan who had been sent to protect the convoy. The Lion Clan is also joined by Brass Body (Bautista), a man who can actually turn his skin into actual brass, so weapons have little effect on him. The Emperor, enraged at the theft, sends his soldiers with a new weapon from America: The gatling gun, with order to raze the village to the ground if the villagers don’t turn the gold over to the soldiers. Now Blacksmith, Jack Knife and Zen Yi must enter the Blossom and face the Lion Clan, the prostitutes who are far more deadly than they seem, and a metal man in an attempt to get their revenge and save the town at the same time…

A football analogy may best describe this film: That of a wide receiver jumping up in the endzone covered by two cornerbacks and makes a spectacular catch only to have the ball slip through his fingers just as he’s touching down. This film has a lot of problems, but also has quite a few things that the RZA did do really well. The cast was well chosen with the exception of one cast member. Russell Crowe was actually really good as the crude, rude Jack Knife (the character was modeled after the late ODB), Lucy Lui also does a fine job as Madame Blossom, bringing a lot of personality and deadly beauty to the role. Cung Le is also very good as baddie Bronze Lion, and the list of supporting characters is just awesome: you have the great Gordon Lui, Beardy, and Chen Tai Kuan all looking great to see on screen again. Special recognition to Grace Huang and Andrew Lin as the Gemini Twins. They had a short amount of screen time but were two of the most interesting characters in the film, that I really wanted to see more of, and seeing Dennis Chan (Kick boxer) and Pam Grier rounds things off nicely. Daniel Wu was miscast as the main villain as Daniel doesn’t know much in the way of martial arts and it shows, but he can look menacing. I wish they had gotten someone like a Yuen Biao or Lo Meng or hell, why not Wang Lung Wei to play his part. Rick Yune does fine job with the action but his acting is very one-note, but of all the cast members, one sticks out as the worst, and it brings the film down a lot.

That would be the RZA himself.

He’s really not very good as an actor, and he’s not a martial artist, and that is a bad combination (he did use Marrese Crump as his martial arts stuntman, which causes problems of its own) . For his character to work he had to be good at one or the other. As the film goes on that becomes a problem as he simple can’t pull off the dramatic scenes. This is a role that should’ve gone to a Michael Jai White or Wesley Snipes, men who are good at both acting and martial arts. The RZA gets so many things right, but this one piece of hubris brings everything down as he can’t carry the film in his scenes.

The directing by the RZA is decent, and the production values are top notch, and the music is absolutely fantastic, featuring the Wu Tang Clan at its best, and really fits with the look of the film (showing once and for all that yes, hip hop music in a martial arts film can work if done correctly). The first 30 minutes of the film is absolute top notch, from the old school opening credits to the first fights, but after that the story settles down and becomes a been-there-seen-that affair as nothing new is brought to the table, except gore on the level of Story of Ricky, so this film is not for the squeamish. The climactic fights at the end of the film for the three protagonists is resolved so simply it brings down the level of threat the villains ever had to begin with. The camera work is well done, but another culprit rears its ugly head, one common to American action films: editing, but I’ll get to that as part of my next problem with the film.

That would be the fight choreography by Corey Yuen. Tons of unnecessary wirework, and dammit Corey goes slumming again. I thought Romeo Must Die would be his low point, but he manages to nearly hit that point again. The fight scenes are not very well done. There is no complexity to the choreography, no grace, even for those who know martial arts. This is the biggest sin this film commits. The editing does nothing to help, as it is editing in typical American MTV style quick cuts and extreme close-ups to the point where you can’t see where the hell anyone is at in relation to each other. It is also here that the RZA’s camera work (or that of the 2nd unit director if there was one) really let the film down, as they don’t know how to shoot or follow action very well. This may be due to the fact that things had to be edited to appear as if RZA knew martial arts and to hide his stunt man. If Corey Yuen directed these scenes, then shame on him. Either way this wouldn’t have passed mustard in a Hong Kong production.

I did love the Shaw Brothers-inspired closing credits, though.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Man With The Iron Fists falls short of greatness, but isn’t a terrible movie, and fun may be had if you see it at matinee prices. The RZA’s heart is in the right place, but in the end it’s just an American film pretending to be a Shaw Brothers film.