Review by Ed Nguyen
Donnie Yen, Yu Rong Guang, Jean Wang, Tsang Sze-Man
Director: Yuen Wo Ping
Audio: English or Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Dimension (Disney)
Features: Interviews with Donnie Yen and Quentin Tarantino, score medley
Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2002
sect killed my father!"
make it a family tradition."
who have watched any of the Matrix
films have probably marveled at those great action sequences.
Who knew Keanu Reeves could look so cool pretending to be Bruce Lee?
Well, the man ultimately responsible whipping Keanu into kung fu-ing
shape was the master stunts choreographer Yuen Wo Ping.
Yuen has been around a while, albeit mostly in the Hong Kong movie
industry. But while there, he
worked with the best in the martial arts genre - Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Donnie
Yen to name a few. One of his final
films, before assuming solely choreography duties, was Iron
Monkey (1993), and it packs a knock-out punch.
the film good? Oh, you betcha!
Sophisticated people who are looking for Oscar-worthy performances may
roll their eyes at this mindless action flick, but the martial arts film genre
has never been about thought-provoking drama and emotional speeches.
It's all about kicking the other guy into the middle of next week! It's about the good guys with their hiiie-ya kicks and the bad guys with their evils laughs and twisty
Fu Manchu beards. The plots are all
variations on the same theme - the hero gets knocked around silly early on but
does some training and comes back to stomp the bad guys into an unrecognizable
ooze. And Iron Monkey, produced by Hong Kong wunderkind Tsui Hark and directed
by Yuen Wo Ping, has arguably some of the finest martial arts action sequences
ever devised for film. Yuen Wo Ping
is at the top of his game here, and with Donnie Yen leading the way, this film
is a thrill ride from start to finish.
film takes place in China in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
A mysterious folk hero, Iron Monkey, has been terrorizing the local
corrupt government officials. He
dodges all the government's diabolical traps and generally makes the government
lackeys look like bumbling idiots. Crusader
by night, by day he is just the local good-hearted pharmacist, Dr. Yang (Yu Rong
Guang). Ha ha, a pharmacist!
That's a new one.
this vigilante also has a female sidekick - Miss Orchid (the seriously fine Jean
Wang). She has some moves on her
too, you better believe! Together,
they do the honorable Robin Hood act - rob the rich, feed the poor.
as it turns out, the governor has a new plot to capture Iron Monkey.
All strangers and monkey-looking beggars are to be gathered up.
Inadvertently entangled in this mess are two innocent travelers, Wong
Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his young son, Fei Hung.
When Wong Kei-Ying reveals some of his awesome martial arts skills, the
governor quickly revises his plans - he threatens to kill Fei Hung unless
Kei-Ying agrees to find and defeat the Iron Monkey.
there any point in babbling further about the plot? Suffice it to say that Wong Kei-Ying does find and initially
fights Iron Monkey. But, when he
realizes who the bad guys really are, he joins up with Iron Monkey instead to
defeat the corrupt government officials. The
governor may ultimately be a push-over, but soon an evil magistrate replaces him
and turns out to be a very deadly master monk indeed!
This magistrate's arrival starts the countdown towards a fiery climactic
fight with a majestic ooooh-factor.
this is popcorn-martial arts at its finest!
The action is all real with no CGI effects! A mixture of traditional martial arts and amazing wire-fu,
the stunts in Iron Monkey have to be
seen to be believed. These actors
are truly skilled martial artists, and the results are all on-screen for
everyone to see. From bare-handed
fisticuffs to melee combats involving swords, polearms, chains, and even burning
logs, it's all here!
if you're in the mood for some light-hearted but exciting action, why not give Iron
Monkey a try? There are few
Hong Kong martial arts flicks better than this Yuen Wo Ping film, and with the
fine polish that Miramax has given to it, Iron
Monkey has never looked better!
Wong Fei Hung of course grew up to become a legendary (but real-life) folk hero
himself. Jackie Chan portrayed him
in two Drunken Master films and Jet Li
handled the duties in the awesome Once
Upon a Time in China series. For
Iron Monkey, Wong Fei Hung is
portrayed by the very talented Tsang Sze-Man, who is actually....a girl!
picture looks good.
Hong Kong films are notorious for being very poorly preserved, but either
Dimension found an extremely well-preserved print or did an excellent job
retouching one up to Hollywood standards. Presented
in anamorphic widescreen, Iron Monkey
will please all fans of the film with its gorgeous and solid transfer.
only criticism, though, is one that applies pretty much to every single Hong
Kong martial arts flick that Dimension brings to these shores - the film is
truncated. Oh, Dimension has added
some nifty opening and end title sequences, but some scenes in the film are
slightly shortened and a few short sequences are missing altogether.
Most of these had a colloquial flavor that would probably seem alien or
weird to American audiences. If
Dimension absolutely had to re-edit the film for content, at least they did a
decent job, for I doubt the majority of the viewing public will notice that
anything is amiss.
so, it would be nice if a Hong Kong film were to actually see America
distribution without being routinely re-edited. Honestly, how many martial arts fans are seriously concerned
about content? Just let us see
original Chinese soundtrack has been retained for this DVD.
Woo-hoo! It's the only way
to go, and it sounds great in its new, thunderous 5.1 re-mix.
sure, you could listen to the English
dub instead. But that is so gurly.
C'mon, this is a martial arts flick!
Show some backbone already and just use the Chinese audio.
And don't cry about the subtitles, either.
There's no crying in martial arts.
DVD has two quick interviews. I am
not sure how many people would consider an interview with Quentin Tarantino a
"feature," but here it is nonetheless in bold and cheery colors.
Tarantino is his usual, relentlessly motor-mouth self, and he explains
(in so many words) how he was able to convince Disney to finally distribute Iron
Monkey in America. Love him or
hate him, he still has great taste in Hong Kong action flicks!
The second interview, with Donnie Yen, is less spastic but just as
enjoyable for any fans of this exceptional martial artist.
Yen describes some of the styles involved in the choreography for Iron
are also five trailers on the DVD for Jet Li films (The Legend, The Legend 2, Twin
Warriors) and Jackie Chan films (The
Legend of the Drunken Master, Twin
there is a short score medley which is somewhat pointless, so don't bother with