Australian filmmaker, Serge Ou’s newest film, Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks is a kinetic and enjoyable journey that charts the evolution of martial arts movies from the Shaw Brothers reign in Hong Kong, the effects that the icons like Bruce Lee, Cheng Pei-pei, and Jackie Chan would have on the world today.
For as much as he is a fan, Ou’s love is truly what’s showcased here, it almost proves a hinderance at times as Ou builds this film with his editor, Chris Bamford, with a kinetic and fast-paced style that mirrors the films he’s documenting. At times, Iron Fist can seem unfocused and jumbled because Ou does a fantastic job of making sure everyone is talked about in this film. But the thing is, Ou’s love of the genre is infectious and this crazy pacing he’s established never once takes away from the sheer amount of fun Iron Fists is.
With as much content as Ou has in this film, he smartly keeps the focus on the cultural reception of martial arts films throughout the world. Ou’s managed to collect interviews with a collection of legends and modern stars, Crouching Tiger’s, Cheng Pei-pei, Sammo Hung, Cynthia Rothrock, Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick, actor and martial artists, Michael Jai White, and Scott Adkins just to name a few. You can definitely appreciate Ou’s thinking that there are no small parts to play when you’re making movies.
Though this crazy pacing, Ou does, from time to time, adhere to a narrative for the most part as he starts with martial arts films creation in Peking opera and the Shaw Brothers rise to power. The Shaw Brothers, in their heyday, were making a martial arts film a week and hits the obvious films like Crouching Tiger and The Matrix.
Moving between truly amazing and entertaining misadventures in English language dubbing in the influence martial arts films have had on international audiences especially with the African American audiences. Ou’s love for the genre always shines through as he juxtaposes old and new as he covers parkour, breakdancing, filmmaking in Uganda, even Australia as he moves back and forth between old and new and the utterly shocking stories of what stuntmen had to go through filming martial arts movies in Hong Kong.
The biggest problem that Iron Fists has is that there is far too much content for the 108 minutes runtime and the results are, something that Ou himself admits is some sections of the film feel like they aren’t given their moment and even Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan feel breezed over at times.
In a sense, that isn’t a bad thing, it’s a brief window into just how massive martial arts films are. And Ou truly does succeed with what he was attempting with Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks despite the clear issues with breadth rather than depth and this editing style. This film serves as a passionate tribute to getting kicked in the face for the camera and well worth 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
When you’re walking out of this film, I can almost promise you that you will soon be watching the 36th Camber of the Shaolin, Blood and Bone, Game of Death and truly appreciating the magic that martial arts film has to offer.