The RZA returns in the titular role in this straightforward sequel to the over-the-top 2012 original kung fu homage.
Thaddeus, the titular “Man with the Iron Fists” on his way to a quest for inner peace. However, he is confronted by Young Lion, who is avenging the death of his elder brother. When he defeats Young Lion and his men, the attack proves too much for Thaddeus, who falls into the river.
Meanwhile, at Tsai Fu Village, the miners and everyone else are under the rule of Beetle Clan leader Ho. One of the miners, Li Kung, is a man with a past. While the other miners have been very vocal in Ho’s iron rule, Kung rather keeps to himself. When his younger brother Guang defeats one of Ho’s men in the nightly ring fights at the local bar, things sort of look up for the miners, until Ho orders the death of Guang.
When Thaddeus is found by Innocence, Kung’s daughter, she nurses him back to health with support of her father. Things become complicated when Kung and the miners learn of the sacred “Golden Nectar” of the Wu Chi Mountains. Legend has it that ten years ago, an evil man named Lord Pi attempted to get the nectar to gain immortality only to be stopped. Between a rash of murders where young women are drained of their chi and Master Ho’s troublesome efforts, Li Kung finally musters up the courage to make the village safe again and asks Thaddeus to help him achieve this goal.
2012’s The Man with the Iron Fists was seen as an over-the-top homage to the classic kung fu film that melded with other genres and while the idea seemed good in the mind, the film ultimately left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths. At first it seemed quite surprising that there was in fact, a sequel to be made. Many wondered if the film would still follow the style of the original or would it be something different. The result? In this reviewer’s opinion, this actually is better than the original film.
Instead of the RZA directing, we have who is known as a “go-to” guy for direct-to-DVD sequels, Dutchman Roel Reiné. Reiné not only directed but served as the cinematographer for the film. RZA came up with the story, which looks to be a series of three stories that interconnect all within the confines of a small village. With help from co-writer John Jarrell, RZA proved that he had somewhat improved with the script with not putting too much things but rather smoothly interweaves the mystery of young women being murdered by a chi drainage, the attempt to overthrow a ruthless madman, and the central character vowing not to fight but ending up using his “iron fists” for the good of mankind.
Dustin Nguyen is great as Li Kung. One can only feel him and RZA’s Thaddeus have something in common. Shadowed by dark pasts, it is their overcoming of their pasts that ultimately will make them both true heroes. Carl Ng, son of the Lucky Stars’ Richard Ng, is just menacing to watch as the village leader Ho, who spends his time belittling everyone while holding or engaging in many fights or carousing with young concubines. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa does quite well as Mayor Zhang, who serves as an underling to Ho of sorts and is confined to a wheelchair. Simon Yin’s Cha Pow provides some comic relief to the serious tone of the film. Eugenia Yuan, daughter of legendary film star Cheng Pei-Pei, does well as Kung’s wife while Thai actress Pim Bubear really proves to be pivotal as Innocence, Kung’s daughter.
Instead of Corey Yuen, the film’s action scenes were coordinated by Panna Rittikrai’s protégé, “Seng” Kawee Sirikhanerut. Kawee has worked in many productions as of late for both Thailand and the U.S. He led the action team for Panna’s final film, Vengeance of an Assassin. Here, Kawee lessens on the wirework, although there is some in the film, and makes the sporadic action quite grounded for the most part. One of the highlight fights comes in between Thai actor and stuntman Charlie Ruedpokanon and Hong Kong-based martial artist Ocean Hou, who plays Ho’s man Shou. Hou uses some nice kicking skills against Ruedpokanon, who uses Mantis Fists in the fight. The RZA gets in on the opening fight scene and towards the climax, while Dustin Nguyen once again shows some nice action once he feels he needs to get something done. Even more the better, the finale leads to a somewhat unexpected twist that just can’t be revealed.
It is safe to say that The Man with the Iron Fists 2 is truly a watchable sequel. One may come in with low expectations watching this and that is understandable. However, the film has a more straightforward feel rather than an over the top mess that was its predecessor and that works just fine. Worth a rental, even if you feel the need to skip the original.
WFG RATING: B+
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment present an Arcade Films/Iron Fists in association with Living Films. Director: Roel Reiné. Producers: Marc Abraham and Ogden Gavanski. Writers:
RZA and John Jarrell. Cinematography: Roel Reiné. Editing: Radu Ion and Charles Norris.
Cast: RZA, Dustin Nguyen, Eugenia Yuan, Charlie Ruedpokanon, Carl Ng, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Pim Bubear, Simon Yin, Dom Hetrakul, Seiji Ozaki.