• Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: December 4th, 2019.
    Director: Serge Ou
    Cast: Jessica Henwick, Scott Adkins, Juju Chan, Amy Johnston, Ross Boyask, Mike Leeder
    Year: 2019
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    Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks – Movie Review:

    Over the span of an hour and fifty-minutes, Serge Ou’s documentary Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks does a very good job of exploring the history and cultural significance of kung fu on modern cinema. This is, admittedly, a topic of massive scale, but Ou’s film, which he co-wrote with Grady Hendrix (who appears as a commentator in the film) offers lots of introspection as well as a primer of sorts on the history of kung fu movies.

    The documentary pretty much goes in chronological order, starting with the birth of kung fu movies in Hong Kong and the rise of the Shaw Brothers studio system and their cadre of stars. We learn how popular the Shaw pictures got, and how that led to the rise of competition from the likes of Golden Harvest. Of course, the popularity of Bruce Lee is discussed in quite a bit of detail (the Shaw Brothers not signing him is compared to a record label not signing The Beatles!) which leads to international success on a pretty massive scale. There’s also some amusing discussion of the ‘Bruceploitation’ pictures that were cranked out en masse after the superstar’s death.

    From there, the movie bounces back and forth between covering the influence of kung fu movies on American audiences and filmmakers, and on hip-hop culture, how it took over Times Square alongside adult pictures in the 70’s and into the 80’s as well as how it continued to evolve in Hong Kong and China with the likes of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung becoming massive stars. With the Shaw studio system closing up years down the road, many of Hong Kong’s finest made their way to Hollywood, working on blockbusters like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We also learn about the influence of Hong Kong films outside of North America towards the end of the movie where we learn about the Wakaliwood phenomena and the advent of Indonesian ass-kickers like The Raid films and Thai pictures like Ong Bak. The film closes out by talking about how different YouTubers like Amy Johnston continue to show the influence and maintain the importance of kung fu in the movies.

    Really, this picture covers a LOT of ground in its almost two-hour running time. Could it have covered more? Of course, there are thousands of kung fu movies out there and plenty of cast and crew makers on various levels from the genre’s past and present that could have participated – but interviewing or even mentioning ‘everyone’ would be a fool’s errand. What Ou and company have done here is put together what amounts to an excellent overview rather than a super-intense deep dive, and for most folks that’ll be more than enough.

    As to the commentators? We hear from a nice range of interviewees - Jessica Henwick, Scott Adkins, Juju Chan, Amy Johnston, Ross Boyask, Andre Morgan, Ric Meyers, Billy Blanks, Jade Leung, Mike Leeder, Wilson Yip, Colin Geddes, Grady Hendrix, Cheng Pei Pei, Sammo Hung, Billy Blanks, Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Ron Van Clief, Terry Levene, Ken Swift, and plenty more.

    Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks – DVD Review:

    Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks arrives on DVD in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The archival footage, being archival footage and all, can sometimes look worse for wear and occasionally digital effects are used to give some clips a ‘grindhouse print’ look but the newly shot interview footage, which was clearly shot digitally, looks nice and clean. No problems here, the movie looks quite good on DVD.

    Umbrella provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix in English. The audio is clear and nicely balanced, free of any hiss or distortion. It is worth pointing out that when certain interviewees answer questions in Chinese they are dubbed into English. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided.

    There are no extra on the disc at all.

    Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks – The Final Word:

    Iron Fists And Kung Fu Kicks is a genuinely entertaining and engaging look at the phenomena that is martial arts cinema. While this might not teach the experts out there anything that they don’t already know, there’s a lot of insight here and a great selection of archival material as well, all of which makes this a fun watch. Umbrella’s DVD is devoid of extras, unfortunately, but it does provide a nice presentation for the feature.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I have to give credit to any documentary that interviews Fab 5 Freddy. Crazy to see him pop up.