Martial Arts
Iron Monkey
Dir: Yuen Woo-Ping
Star: Yu Rong Kwong, Donnie Yen, Sze-Man Tsang, Jean Wang
Cert / Year: 12/ 1993 - HKL release 2001
Format: VIDEO

Iron Monkey Special Collector's Edition, has been released as part of the Hong Kong Legends series. Also known as The Iron Monkey:The Young Wong Fei Hung, it is a small introduction to the heroic legend, as featured in the epic film Once Upon a Time in China, starring Jet Li. (as the adult Wong Fei-Hung) Iron Monkey is needless to say set in China, towards the end of the Ching dynasty.

After a series of devastating floods the local residents of a small town are suffering from an outbreak of plague, as well as the loss of homes and valuable crops. The town is governed by corrupt officials, so they won't do anything to help as they are too busy lining their own pockets, and stuffing themselves with the food that they have stockpiled, leaving the sick and dying to fend for themselves. The only person who cares for these people is the local doctor and renowned herballist Dr Yang, (Yu Rong Kwong) who in addition to his work as a lifesaving doctor, has an alter ego, that of the "Iron Monkey". A sort of Robin hood type character, Iron Monkey dishes out his own brand of justice to the corrupt and wicked, including robbing them of all their ill-gotten gains, and promptly distributing it back to the needy. Which has naturally made him a hero to the people and an enemy to the state. (nothing new there, then) The local officials have tried everything to catch Iron Monkey, set traps and hired expert fighters to catch and or kill him, all to no avail.

Into the fray stumbles a former Shaolin priest Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his young son, Wong Fei-Hung (Sze-Man Tsang) on a trip from their home in Fushan. After Wong Kei-Ying is forced to defend himself and his son whilst some local robbers attempt to mug them, he is arrested along with about 30 or 40 of the local residents on suspicion of being the Iron Monkey. The local government decide that anyone who is skilled in martial arts, might be Iron Monkey, so anyone that can handle themselves is arrested, just in case. The local governor tries all of the suspects in the one court sitting, and Wong Kei-Ying becomes a little annoyed with the governor, and his methods. So the governor decides that Wong Kei Ying is the Iron Monkey and in an attempt to get him to confess, he orders that Wong Fei-Hung is to be blinded by hot brand, and the rest of the prisoners beaten or killed, if he doesn't. At which point the real Iron Monkey appears to rescue them, with stunning consequences.

Iron Monkey is undeniably one of the best traditional martial arts films that you could ever see, it is tightly packed with superb fight sequences, and some truly amazing action, a fantastic tour de force of kinetic energy. This is an all time classic, and incorporates the legend of Wong Fei-Hung, into the emotional and moralistic story, which simply adds to the raw power of the tale against oppression, tyranny and corruption. A classic heroic tale, this film contains a bit of everything. The direction of Yuen Woo-Ping is faultless, he has managed to capture some of the most technical martial arts, with an artists eye and sheer fluidity which simply enhances the plutonic overtone of the film. Most people will be more familiar with his ingenius work as the "action director" for films such as The Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or if you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema, his direction on Drunken Master 1 & 2. Donnie Yen ( Blade 2, Highlander: Endgame) is a renowned and superb martial artist and is perfect in the role of Wong Kei-Ying. Jean Wang is staggering as Orchid, and gets some truly memorable and brilliantly directed scenes.

I like the way that these well known, and legendary characters have been interwoven into such a unique and original film, and is more than a mere martial arts film. A little tip is to watch the film with subtitles, as they are generally a lot closer to the original translation than the often ridiculous dubbing, which, in my view only serves to belittle and demean some of the fantastic presentations from Hong Kong cinema. My only criticism of this film, is that now and again you get a scene with some excessive wire work, which to be honest I think some films can do without.


A man sheds blood, not tears

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home