Iron Monkey (1993)
Reviewed by: Arshadnm6 on 2005-04-18
Summary: The legendary Yuen Woo Ping gives birth to the masterpiece of his life....
Unarguably one of the best directed / action-choreographed movies from Yuen Woo Ping, with a blend of romance / martial arts / atmosphere, which makes this among the best movies to premiere in HK Cinema in the 1990’s. The producer for this movie was Tsui Hark, and the return collaboration from both Yuen and Tsui, since ‘Once Upon a Time in China 2’, shows an assertive masterpiece with very minor flaws and great integrity, portraying the future potential of both visionaries.

The film starts with the exploits of Dr. Yang (played by ‘Yu Rong-Guang’), a kind-hearted physician, whom spends most of his daytime treating the sick, near free treatment to the poor and overcharging the rich for the price of medicine. Then during night-time changes his role to ‘Iron Monkey’, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, like the Chinese Robin Hood sort of character, relentlessly opposing the subjugations of the ruling Ching Government. Dr. Yang also has a beautiful assistant named ‘Orchid’ (played by ‘Jean Wang’, from other recognizable roles in ‘Once Upon a Time in China 4 and 5’) assisting him in both his roles, and also somewhat of a love interest. The romance is evident, yet no intimacy or explicitness portraying both their affection, which helps enforce the genre this film is set out to be, a kung-fu movie!!

Eventually Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen), member of the legendary ‘Ten Tigers of Canton’ and the young teenager Wong Fei Hung (Tzang Tse-Man) arrive in town shortly afterwards. Unfortunately they are soon arrested with several other villagers, mistakenly assumed to be in collusion with the ‘Iron Monkey’, by the Ching government. After Wong Kei Ying is cleared of the charges his troubles only begin to escalate, as his son Wong Fei Hung is kept hostage by the Ching Government, until Kei Ying can capture the real ‘Iron Monkey’ and bring him to justice. Finally Wong Kei Ying mistakenly takes refuge in Dr. Yang’s residence, not aware what his real identity is, but shortly after a few unfortunate events everything is brought to light. Wong Kei Ying and Dr. Yang ally together to take down ‘Hiu Hing’ (Yen Shi-Kwan), a high-ranking government official whom is not only corrupt but is a disgraced Shaolin Monk, mastered in the deadly art of Buddha’s Palm. The final showdown takes place in the governor’s house, where both Dr. Yang and Kei Ying take on Hiu Hing on top of wooden logs above a heap of burning rubble, naturally one of the best action-choreographed scenes and imaginative sets ever to grace the HK Cinema.

There is plenty of character development and much is explained on the background of each individual main character and their past history. Also Wong Fei Hong is taught martial arts from both Dr. Yang and Wong Kei Ying and this very well portrays Wong Fei Hong’s talent to adopt any form of martial arts, which makes it an excellent prequel to the ‘Once Upon a Time in China’ series. It’s no exaggeration to quote that Iron Monkey is probably one of the best martial arts movies in the last decade. Very few films can even match the sort of talent and action choreography in this movie (along with the great ‘Moon Warriors’). The kung fu styles used in this movie are unique and impressive and help meet the viewer’s expectation of the genre. The storyline is straight-forward but parts of the movie seem to ruin the whole Feng Shui of the Movie, mostly the part when four expelled Shaolin Monks are always parading the streets, capturing innocent women (using ether as a form of sedative) in the hopes of raping them afterwards. Fortunately, our male hero’s are not too far away to stop this madness and bring order once again.

Overall Rating: 8.8/10
Reviewer Score: 9