7:00 PM, 4th May, 2013
Anna (Knightley) is a married woman who falls for, and runs off with, the glamorous young Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). While Vronsky continues to cut a fine figure in society, Anna cannot show her face; she has committed a mortal sin in most people’s eyes.
Film versions of the novel have been coming out for over a hundred years now, and in that time social attitudes have changed completely – the double standard which still seemed entirely natural a century ago now seems ridiculous. For this reason I think the movie makes the right decision in going all out in art direction and costume design: as the camera glides around restlessly and finds nothing but fur cloaks and palace halls wherever it looks, we begin to lose our 21st Century bearings.
In the book there’s a counterpoint to Anna’s tragedy; it involves Levin (an earnest young fellow who’s in love with a girl who refused him because she had a crush on Vronsky). Although this other story actually takes up just as many chapters and is the main story, so far as I’m concerned, some film versions jettison it altogether. This time, Levin gets to stay in the movie (played by Gleeson), and he’s the main reason we get to occasionally travel outside this claustrophobic world and breathe some pure air now and again.
9:25 PM, 4th May, 2013
A small town blacksmith (The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA) runs into a spot of bother with the local Wolf gang and their henchman Brass Body (wrestler Dave Bautista), who are out to get their hands on a shipment of gold owned by the local magistrate. After eliminating all the other local gangs, each named for a style of combat (many in turn named for a type of animal), the Wolf gang decide the blacksmith is the best source of information on that gold – and cut off his arms in the process. Teaming with the appropriately named Jack Knife (Crowe) and the son of the previous leader of the Wolf gang, X Blade (Yune), the blacksmith forges himself a pair of iron fists and heads to the local brothel (run by Liu) to retrieve the gold from the baddies.
The Man with the Iron Fists is an unusual beast in that it is an homage to Kung Fu films of the 70s and 80s (particularly the splattery kind such as Master of the Flying Guillotine or Ricky Oh) – films that were notoriously butchered by the Weinsteins and their ilk in the 80s and 90s; typically chopped down by as much as half an hour and re-scored, frequently with obnoxiously out of place Hip Hop. Not exactly Kung Fu as everyone wants to see it, but evidently in a manner that has its share of fans. Roping in all their mates in Hollywood, along with legendary fight choreographer Corey Yuen, RZA and Eli Roth have successfully achieved what they set out to do – right down to a choppy narrative that makes you wonder what is missing. The Man With The Iron Fists is a visual treat; hollow but a lot of fun to watch.