Long, long ago, sometime in 1984 or 85, I went to the theater to check out a film called TOUGHER THAN LEATHER. the film featured Rap kings RUN DMC, and was basically an updated blaxploitation film, but with none of the charm, class or quality of the original genre.
The film was bad. really bad. Disjointed, nonsensical, and an embarrassment. RUN AND DMC used to come by my sister’s home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, but I was never there to ask them why they made such a brutally bad mistake. It wasn’t the first bad exploitation movie, and it wouldn’t be the last. However, it was a prime example of why, for the most part, athletes shouldn’t make records, actors should never be politicians, and rappers should never star in a motion picture.
Now there are exceptions to the rule. For the most part, LL Cool J does a decent job on t.v., as does ICE T. However, there is one guy who has used his musical affiliation with martial arts to get into major action films. RZA.
Yes, that guy.
One of the legendary Wu Tang Clan. Makers of some of the most famous and well done Hip Hop classics ever put on wax. (Or CD) Their whole crew has used the iconography of Asian Cinema as their backdrop, and they have been very successful at it. However, to use characters from Kung Fu films to represent your rap style, is a whole different thing than putting out an image that you actually ARE like these Kung Fu legends you rap about.
It’s like doing gangster rap, but you have never been a gangster…sound familiar?
When my Kung Fu teacher was beating the shit out of me with a broom stick, walking on my legs while I was in full Chinese splits, or beating me about the head and neck while I stood blindfolded in the snow, I had no ambitions other than to live to see another day. This is the kind of training we martial artists must endure, at least those of us who are genuine martial artists. Furthermore, I began producing martial arts films in 1974, at the age of 13, and then went on to spend 6 years in college earning a Master’s Degree in film making.
I am not sure what kind of “training” Mister RZA has gone through, but I get the impression it consisted mainly of going to The Roxy theater in Mid Town on Saturdays, and watching Shaw Brothers films from dusk to dawn. I mean, yeah, I spent a great deal of my life watching men of Asian descent , kick the crap out of each other. When even went to drive-ins with a tape recorder, and taped the audio from the films. We’d then play the audio back at home, and try to reconstruct the film in our minds. This is how I began to create fight scenarios for my films.
I am sure RZA and his peeps probably used similar methods to build rhymes. Awesome. But exactly how does merely watching Kung Fu films qualify you to star in MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS?
Furthermore, how does it get you a second deal to shoot the sequel?
Not one to keep anyone from making a buck through their work, or connections, but I’m a little perturbed here. To begin with, the title of the film is an obvious rip off of the Cheh Cheng classic KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, which I am sure Mister RZA has probably seen a time or two.
I’ve done this for 40 years, in virtual obscurity, and if I had the budgets he has had to work with, I’d produce projects more closely in line with the quality and spirit of Asian cinema. If you are going to Rip off Cheng Chen ‘s film catalog you have to at least give the impression you know something about Kung Fu, Asian cinema, or acting. He fails miserably on all counts.
Now, I may be a bit jealous of someone who has achieved something I have worked for all my life, without any of the actual training to do it.
More importantly, I am terrified at the effect that these bad films will have on the next Black martial arts actor who goes looking for investors.
Like it or not, Hollywood has a history of giving Black films one chance to succeed, or they pull the plug on every Black film in that same genre for a damn long time. The Man with The Iron Fists was bad filmmaking, on every level. I know that THIS ABYSMAL FAILURE cannot all be laid at RZA’s feet.
After all, someone had to pony up the cash and then pay off Russell Crowe to sleep walk his way through this turkey. And even with all of that baggage, someone is paying for a sequel?
God, I am so jealous! I’d love to be paid to reproduce garbage!
It might be fun to pretend to be Bruce Lee. But what happens when you actually have to face Chuck Norris and you really ain’t that Bruce Lee after all?
You get your ass handed to you by someone who knows what the hell he’s doing.
Just a thought.