This utterly preposterous martial arts film is directed by and stars RZA (of rap group The Wu-Tang Clan) and “presented by” Quentin Tarantino.
Shot in China, it can’t help but seem like an adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy. There is something endearing about RZA’s absurdly portentous voice-over and the stoicism with which his character, a blacksmith, reacts to having his arms chopped off. The action sequences – which constitute nine tenths of the film – are staged with more energy than artistry. You won’t find the grace and balletic movement that characterises Zhang Yimou’s martial arts movies but there’s plenty of Shaw Brothers-style mayhem. The script, co-written by Eli Roth, is formulaic. The ludicrous performances – a portly Russell Crowe as an opium-addicted British soldier with more than a hint of Oliver Reed about him, Lucy Liu as a brothel madam who has tutored her girls in the art of killing as well as of sex – evoke memories of provincial pantomime.