måndag 20 januari 2014


This is an interesting transnational kung fu flick displaying unlike most chinese produced kung fu flicks a more positive view on western  foreigners coming into China  than most. Chinese-produced kung fu flicks do. Chinese cinema especially nowadays are keen on upholding the dicotomy of : domestic:GOOOOOOD, foreign:BAAAAD. But RZA´s kung fu homage on old Shaw Brothers movies is much more  fresh in its approach on ethniticity. Maybe it has to do that it is part of the directors approach. Black people has been traditionally oppressed and its history as well. It is time for a fresher, more non-racial kung fu movie. And I love it for that.

Man, I love Fist Of Fury, Once Upon a Time in China Ip Man  and all that. But man do those movies, with scales of differences of course, more or less project a more protectionistic and hostile approach to foriegn influence on the chinese heritage. Especially Once Upon a Time in China were its folk hero Wong fei Hung defeats evil foreigners. Here an english colonial, an american black immigrant and the son of the murdered leader of the lion Clan teams up . I like how their motives intertwine to take down the corrupt Silver Lion.

The plot is a token Shaw Brothers one, with an overambundance of colourful characters,a complex narrative, lush and elaborate sets and complicated martial arts choreography, but with an amazing  ecclectic soundtrack adding to the mix. The framing in the fights are less "stagey" than the usual Hong Kong Cinema compositions, making for much tighter close-ups and intimacy to the fights but is unfortunatly not good enough to rival  the long tradition of showcasing the impressive chinese martial arts on screen. On the other hand there are few real practioners on screen so it can be forgiven. Gordon Liu is one of the few, but he just trains RZA not doing any physical stuff himself.
What really is amazing is seeing Russell Crowe in a straight up kung fu movie. He seems to relish the opportunity of a larger than life character and he truly is memorable in this one. He has a gimmick in form of a rotatable knife and it is used admirably. The other actors are also good, RZA as the weaponsmith is central because he gets the iron fists but also the WWE wrestler Batista as a brassbody motherfucker, also a token of the genre but a really menacing and good foe to fight. Rick Yune ( Die another day, Olympus has fallen) plays the lost son who need to get revenge and is good to see in a different role. 
Which brings me to the lead villain played by Byron  Mann (Belly of the Beast) who I think is a real scene stealer if he gets opportunity to. He does here and he is a tremendous villain. Underrated actor and a great villain.
I think this movie has all the things going for it at this time. It is not an exclusive nationalistic epic kung fu movie like the ones being produced in HK at this very moment but a very transnational one that I feel is a helluva lot better than Ip Man or Legend of the Fist or True Legend.  Those movies are nationalistic at their very nature. But The Man with the Iron fists is something else. It has nothing to do with nation, race or colour. It is about the love of a genre. And that is what should really matter.

onsdag 15 januari 2014


I like a good pretentious genre piece that is unusual and above the ordinary. When it involves a lot of symbolic imagery surrounding hands and karaoke I am all there. People seem to hate Ryan Gosling for his minimalistic approach to acting and they are certianly not gonna like him more after watching this ambivalent revenge tale.
What is particularly great about this is how it completely fucks around with how you normally watch movies. The protagonist is usually the one who gets the largest amount of screen time.Who the protagonist is in this one is not entirely certain..And if you have yet to pick up on King Oidipus you are basically shit out of luck because there are plenty of stuff in here to indicate a connection. Roslings character is Oidipus who in the end gets his hands chopped off, simply cause he ows that. Oidipus cuts his eyes out at the end when he realize his dreadful mistakes and I imagine it works equally here.
Roslings lowlife brother murdered an underaged girl which sets off a violent rampage in Thailand that has to be redeemed just like how in Sophocles tale of redemption the land was rampaged by disease and famine. Someone has to pay. But according to Roslings dominant mother whom he may or may not have a sexual relationship with demands retribution for. It all comes back to Sophocles I think.
A lot of the movie is ambience, sound and atmosphere and I think part of that is what turns people off. They are so used to that genre movies are dumb noisy pieces with lots of spectacle in terms of visual violent pleasure and little brain in them. And when there is actually one with brains they dismiss it. The message is you simply cannot win.Damn!
Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing as the dominant queenbitch supreme gangster boss and a lot of the sceenes with her and Gosling are creepy at best and affirms the Sophocles connection.
Espect violence aplenty and you will be disappointed. This whole tale is about ambivalence. Who really is the perp? The main "villain" (as he would be called in mainstream cinema) is a thai cop out for justice. In a normal american cop movie the focus would have been on him, since the whole instigation is Goslings broters stupid affairs. But since the focus are on the westerners of course we are going to think they are the "good guys". No, they are not. They are despicable people at best. And that is what I love about this unusual revenge story because it takes an unexpected twist to the story.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has produced extraordinary arthouse genre pieces befor. Drive was certainly a lot less abstract than this one and would have fitted in nicely among Steve McQueens carchasemovies of the seventies.
Only God Forgives is a definite brainchewer and there is a lot I still don´t understand. But as an unusual revengemovie it hits topmarks as far as I am concerned.