You’re still better off just rewatching Kill Bill. So Thaddeus (RZA) is wandering the Earth like Caine when the river takes him by chance to a silver mining town that is ripe for revolution. There is a corrupt evil overlord who keeps killing the townsfolk (Carl Ng), as well as a mysterious phantom that keeps killing little girls in the night. The leader of people (Dustin Nguyen) and Thaddeus have to team up to free the miners from oppression. Now I was one of the rare people out there who actually saw the first movie when it came out in 2012 (it barely made its $15 million dollar budget back domestically). I never would have dreamed that this would merit a sequel, because it seems so wildly unnecessary, never mind the fact that nobody was asking for it. The first one was very clearly a passion project for the RZA, and while I can certainly appreciate a man following his dreams, it is surprising to see somebody come back for more when they so clearly failed the first time.
Although I do thank my lucky stars that I did not have to sit through the originally proposed 4-hour cut of the first film.
I never really wholly understood the RZA’s decision to jump into acting. He’s decent in comedic cameos, like in Funny People, or in Coffee and Cigarettes where he gets waited on by Bill Murray, but he doesn’t have the screen presence or charisma to pull off a dramatic role. In fact, all he is doing with these movies is making those classic hip hop albums from the Wu-Tang Clan that were all about Shaolin and old kung fu movies look foolish (I grew up in Rhode Island, where apparently the only two types of music there are to listen to is rap and grunge). I will give the man credit in that at least he made the smart decision to not direct this one; that first movie was a jumbled mess that lacked any sort of cohesion, and the biggest positive I have to say for this movie is that the through storyline is so much more digestible with an actual sense of focus when compared to the first movie.
You wouldn’t think that this story would be so difficult to tell, but you’d be surprised.
While this is an improvement upon the first film, it’s still not a good movie, nor is it anything to write home about. It’s never offensively bad, but there’s not really anything that makes it worthwhile. It takes itself too seriously, and this is the kind of story that could have benefited from amping up the craziness in the script. There’s really not that much fighting throughout the first hour of this, and it really doesn’t have much of anything to do with the first film, other than the fact that they got the RZA to come back. It’s tough to make a movie that successfully pays homage within a worthwhile story, and being that nobody here is Quentin Tarantino, one of the very few people who could successfully pull this off, it falls on its face. It gets stupid, because when you try too hard to replicate a cheap classic, it becomes very clear you can’t fake sincerity. Add in a lot of sloppy dialogue and you’ve got a direct-to-video sequel that not many are likely to watch.
The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015) **
– Critic for Hire