Movie Review: Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (2019)


December 11, 2019-   Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks is a 2019 documentary that enjoyably recounts the evolution of Kung Fu Cinema from its Hong Kong roots to the well choreographed, international blockbusters of today’s martial arts cinema.   In the course of telling the story the film memorializes the conditions that lead to the explosive rise of Bruce Lee and the United States’ Urban Martial Arts remastering of the genre, as these films became 1/2 of the legacy of 42nd Street Cinema of the 1970’s.  The film is from the producer of Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films. 

In today’s world, where martial arts films and martial arts practice have become so recognizable, it is hard to imagine a time, not so long ago, when both were limited to the Far East.  This film chronicles, through film clips and interviews, the emergence and globalization of both.  Martial arts has impacted everything from video games to Hip-Hop to cinema; this film tells you how that happened.

Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks does an amazing job of unpacking how the low budget martial arts film industry of Hong Kong of the 1960’s helped to lead the world into a passion for martial arts that sparked a western demand for martial arts training, including Kung Fu, Karate, Taekwondo and Mixed Martial Arts.  Simultaneously, Hollywood, seeing the financial upside of incorporating the martial arts and the martial arts action stars of the “Shaw Brothers” and “Golden Harvest” studios into their stables has been transformed permanently.

The film, which had its East Coast premiere at this year’s Urban Action Showcase, attended by Taekwondo Life Magazine, reflects a deep understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the love of martial arts cinema and martial arts practice.  Young people all over the world fall in love with martial arts films and begin their journey into the arts which fuels the next generation of martial arts movie stars.   Thus was the journey of Michael Jai White, who assumed the mantle of the Black Dragon at this year’s UAS from his movie and martial arts idol, Ron Van Clief.  Van Clief was originally bestowed the title of the Black Dragon by none other than Bruce Lee and made 10 Black Dragon action films.  This cycle transcends culture and language.

The film features interviews with Fab 5 Freddy, Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Scott Adkins (who still refuses to talk to Taekwondo Life Magazine), together with a series of international martial arts stars, directors, stunt people, and film industry legends.

I highly recommend this film for Taekwondo practitioners and martial arts aficionados.  It is now available onNetflix and other streaming services.

-Marc Zirogiannis

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