RZA’s Greatest Film Contributions: From ‘The Man With the Iron Fists’ to ‘Kill Bill’
We all love RZA. The Wu-Tang architect has been seeping into our film universe for some time now, but with the release of his directorial debut, 'The Man with the Iron Fists', and news of future projects coming together (such as an adaptation of Grant Morrison's Happy,) it looks like RZA may soon become one of the more exciting genre directors out there. Here are some of his greatest film contributions so far.
Whatever film The Man with the Iron Fists ultimately delivers, the trailer and pedigree involved all but guarantees a unique, violent, and action packed kung fu film. Co-written by Eli Roth, The Man with the Iron Fists looks fun and gory enough to reinvigorate the genre. And most surprising of all, it manages to make Russell Crowe look cool again. This one's a must see.
We got our first cinematic taste of RZA in Jim Jarmusch's 1999 film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Not only did RZA supply the film with it's awesome score, but the musician provided an almost non-sequitur walk-on cameo. It lasts just long enough for RZA to intersect with Forest Whitaker's quiet modern samurai and pay his respects. With any other actor, we'd be scratching our heads. But with the RZA, it all made a kind of breaking the fourth-wall sense.
RZA re-teamed with Jim Jarmusch in the director's 2003 series of black and white vignettes, Coffee and Cigarettes. RZA's plays himself in his scene, as does cousin and fellow Wu-Tang member GZA (it would be very okay if GZA started taking over the film world as well). The two have an unexpected encounter with Bill Murray and admonish him over his health choices. RZA and GZA have no problem keeping up with Bill Murray on a comedy level, and together their vignette kind of steals the whole film.
Most of RZA's film contributions consist of extremely hilarious cameos that steal the show. He's great, for instance, as Seth Rogen's deli counter co-worker in the overlong and often morose Funny People. Here, Rogen tries to talk RZA into attending another of his amateur comedy shows. RZA hesitates because Rogen's last performance was embarrassingly awful. In the end, RZA agrees to go, so long as Rogan pay for his and his girlfriend's way in. RZA also makes a staggering point regarding the benefits of having a dental plan.
If RZA were looking for projects specifically designed to raise his film credibility, he couldn't do much better than helping Quentin Tarantino with music duties for Kill Bill. RZA wrote original songs and helped pick tracks for the two-part revenge epic, particularly for the kung-fu focused first entry. He didn't show up on screen, but his presence does not go by unnoticed. And it's no mistake 'The Man With the Iron Fists' can boast Quentin Tarantino as a presenter.
RZA doesn't always get to be associated with great movies. Few people out there would call 'Blade Trinity' the best (or even second best) of the 'Blade' trilogy, but it might get some votes for best soundtrack thanks to RZA's contributions. And you'd have to be blind not to see the appeal the franchise would hold on RZA. It's just too bad he didn't supply music for the great second installment.
This RZA cameo supplies the kind of mediocre third Harold and Kumar entry with some of that infallible RZA comedy magic. As part of their adventures replacing Danny Trejo's perfect Christmas tree, the duo cross paths with Christmas tree salesmen RZA and Da 'Vone McDonald who trade good cop/bad cop roles as angry black men who intimidate white people into spending more on their trees. This cameo is not only hilarious, but it reunites RZA with an artificial grill, recalling his Gravediggaz look. For equal measure, we also get to see RZA dressed in a nerdy Cosby sweater.
After watching Robert Downey Jr. waltz easily through life as Tony Stark in three different Iron Man portrayals, it's kind of a relief to see someone throw a monkey wrench into his plans, even when he's not actually playing Tony Stark.
This is the role supplied RZA in his brief Due Date cameo as an airport security attendant going through Downey's bags, finding both a Mad Magazine ("That's cute) and a pipe full of weed (Jackpot!"). Due Date ultimately disappoints, but this opening RZA cameo at least gets it off on the right foot.
Along with the rest of the world (upset movie execs not included) we have yet to see 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'. But we do know one thing: It has some serious RZA action. He will appear as a character named "Blind Master," which sounds promising. Even more promising, RZA will have his own G.I. Joe toy, complete with a scar running down the middle of his face. Despite the film's crazy long delay from Summer 2012 to Spring 2013, it's hard not to look forward to 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' just a little bit. Surely a film with RZA, The Rock, and Bruce Willis can't be all bad, can it?
And finally, we have 'American Gangster,' the Ridley Scott crime epic detailing the fall of drug kingpin Frank Lucas. RZA plays Moses Jones, a spectacularly-haired police officer on Russell Crowe's squad. While the idea of RZA playing a cop seems like it might be difficult to swallow, he ends up doing a great job without calling too much attention to himself, proving RZA's chops as a real actor rather than cementing him as just some novelty cameo provider.