Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (2019) [Fantastic Fest 2019]

So many times whenever a production company or director has chosen to explore the history and influence of kung fu movies, they choose the more obvious routes. They go about exploring how kung fu movies influenced Hollywood and Western cinema. What director Serge Ou does is explore the influence on Western cinema, and how kung fu movies influenced the entirety of pop culture as a whole. Everything from action cinema, modern movie stars, and even hip hop is explored here and how they took from the genre and it amounts to a very unique and creative take on the outstanding legacy of kung fu films and martial arts cinema.

Featuring interviews with everyone from experts like Grady Hendrix, to stars Cheng Pei-Pei and Cynthia Rothrock, as well as choreographer/directors like Yuen Woo-Ping, “Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks” takes a look at the humongous and outstanding legacy of kung fu and martial arts movies. From their variety of massive films in their library, director Serge Ou explores the Shaw Brothers studios contributions, to Bruce Lee’s massive legacy, the rise of Shaolin Monk action films, how women were given a spotlight, and how the genre delivered a sense of variety and occasional eccentricity to its loyal audience.

Director Ou eventually takes the discussion from out of cinema, delving in to how the platform became a launch pad for diversity and other art forms. There’s a great discussion on how martial arts contributed to the action cinema blaxploitation, the unsung kung fu action of Jim Kelly, and how overlooked he was in the annals of kung fu films. There are also some wonderful examinations on how lower class minorities in America connected so strongly to Asian kung fu cinema, which is a stone cold fact that almost no kung fu documentary has ever touched on before. There’s also looks in to a wider rang of martial artists including African Americans, and how they used it to their advantage.

There are extensive conversations with Michael Jai White, tributes to Ron Van Clief, and discussions with Billy Blanks who implemented martial arts in to a massive fitness empire. My favorite segment involves how Martial Arts cinema helped contribute to hip hop and how break dancers used the theatrics of kung fu to enhance their dance moves. “Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks” is a unique and very entertaining look at the massive appeal and reach Asian kung fu from its origins as grindhouse fodder to one of its titles becoming a heavyweight for the Academy Awards. Fans of action cinema and kung fu cinema owe it to themselves to check out “Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks.” It’s a new, entertaining take on a classic area of film that will give fans a new perspective on the genre’s importance.

Fantastic Fest runs from September 19th to September 26th.