Rapper turned actor and director will make his directorial debut in the Quentin Tarantino-produced Kung Fu movie “The Man with the Iron Fists.” It is in theaters November 2 across the country. (Courtesy photo)
San Antonio.- If Wu Tang’s “36 Chambers” was the beginning of the RZA music career saga, then “Man with the Iron Fists” is secondcoming of his life as a true artist.
If you don’t really know RZA then you don’t know about his love for Kung Fu movies. Since he was young kid he would dream up Kung Fu movie in his head on his walks to school. On November 2, the world will be introduced to the legendary rapper’s skill as a writer and director in the Quentin Tarantino-produced “Man with the Iron Fists.”
The film is an American Kung Fu movie that pays homage to the great Kung Fu movies of all-time that “even the Asian brothers will like what I did,” said RZA.
“I pay so much respect to it, so much homage to it, but I add some flavor to it that they (Asian brothers) might not be up on that they might want to add to their movies, know what I mean,” RZA added.
In this film, RZA debut as a big-screen director/writer and leading man, alongside a stellar international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu.
“Man with the Iron Fists” tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all. Since his arrival in China’s Jungle Village, the town’s blacksmith (RZA) has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction.
When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.
Film-making is a departure from what made RZA a household name. But he believes this movie is at the top of the list when it comes to American-made Kung Fu movies.
“To me a film takes more creativity than an album. There are so many things you have to worry about,” RZA said about the film-making progress. “Music is just one aspect of this thing, but then I act, then I got to write it and direct it. Then, I have to control the art, the hair, there are so many departments as the director you have to have a creative mind on to control all the way down to the costumes and weapons is all from my imagination.”
He did have help with the writing process form Eli Roth who earned a credit and the likes of Quentin Tarantino backing him up, but this was all RZA. He would study and learn from Tarantino leading up to his directorial debut.
You could say RZA was the student at Tarantino was his master. But, it all changed during the making of the film when Tarantino gave RZA the ultimate compliment and approval dubbing him a master.
“That gave me the greatest reward. I felt warm inside from that,” he said. “Most of the time during the shoot—if you ask some of my buddy’s—I was so tense and always focused, like there was a lot of weight on my shoulders.”
“When Quentin gave me that approval a lot of weight went away from me and I was like ‘you know what, I’m good at what I’m doing. He sees it, he says it, he recognizes it nobody can’t tell me nothing. I’m rocking this.’”
At rocked it he did, judging by the early reviews and the movies trailer. The detail of the characters down to the soundtrack produced by RZA is flawless.
Artists lined to make music for the film with RZA. Kanye West cut a song titled “White Dress” solely for a scene that boasts Lucy Liu in a white dress. He also called on his Wu Tang family to record a couple of songs that compliment the film well. Best of all might be The Black Keys collaboration with RZA himself on “Baddest Man Alive,” it’s incredibly— when you combine two artists of their level it’s magic.
The entire soundtrack is packed with the best of hip-hop and soul inspired by RZA’s early days of watching Kung Fu movies. “If you go back into the exploitation days of Kung Fu movies, you’ll notice some of those 70s movies used Soul music for the background.”
“I remember watching a Kung Fu movie and I heard Shaft come on. I even remember watching “The 7 Grandmasters” and it started with the theme song from ”Roots,” you know,” RZA said with a laugh.
So, the connection between Kung Fu, hip-hop and soul isn’t as distant as you might believe.
RZA explained he has a ton of ideas for what might come next even a movie for just the entire Wu Tang Clan to star in one day.
“It’s called “Black Shampoo,” it’s crazy and it’s already written.
“I don’t know if I can spoil it... it’s like this, it’s another genretype mix. I’m mixing Sci-Fi with Martial Arts and black exploitation all in one. That’s a crazy combination. There is a lot, a lot of pretty girls, “Black Shampoo, yeah.”
In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial.
In Chinese, it is a compound of two words, combining (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and (fū) which is alternately treated as being a word for “man” or as a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings (the same character is used to write both).
A literal rendering of the first interpretation would be “achievement of man”, while the second is often described as “work and time/effort”.
Either way you could say RZA’s Kung Fu is off the charts considering the five classic albums he produced with Wu Tang and now “The Man with the Iron Fists.”
Dennis M. Ayotte, Jr. is a reporter for La Prensa de San Antonio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.