Action Movie Fanatix Review: Iron Monkey

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Unmask The Legend

Starring: Yu Rong Guang, Donnie Yen, Jean Wang, Tsang Sze Man, Yuen Shun Yi, James Wong

Writer: Tsui Hark

Action Director: Yuen Wo Ping

Director: Yuen Wo Ping

Producer: Tsui Hark

1993  |  85 Minutes  |  PG-13

“How can it be righteous to defend a corrupt official?” – Iron Monkey

Along with Legend of the Red Dragon, Iron Monkey was another martial arts film I had watched quite some time ago, didn’t enjoy and never gave it another shot.  As with LOTRD, I have decided to give Iron Monkey another shot.  Unfortunately Iron Monkey didn’t fare as well as LOTRD.

In a desperate and unjust land, where government corruption rules the day, only one man – known as the Iron Monkey (Yu Rong Guang) – has the courage to challenge the system and fight back.  Under the shadow of night, in the silence before dawn, he fights to give hope to the poor and the oppressed.  Although no one knows his name or where he comes from, his heroism makes him a living legend to the people… and a wanted man to the powers that be!

The story itself is a classic Robin Hood / Zorro type of story.  Steal from the rich corrupt bad guys and give to the poor, sick and needy.  And Iron Monkey doesn’t really bring much else new to the genre.

Tsang Sze Man is Wong Fei Hung, a legendary figure in Chinese history who has been portrayed by Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and many others.  This fact will probably be lost on a lot of people, assuming they aren’t regular martial arts movie viewers.  I imagine that the impact of that character being involved is lost on just about every non-Chinese viewer.  It felt more like an Easter Egg to me rather than an OMG!!! moment.

The martial arts choreography and execution is top notch but it’s completely ruined by bad wire work and over “selling” the strikes.  Literally every significant strike sends someone flying backwards and crashing through whatever it is they hit, whether it be furniture, a vendor’s tent/stand or even stone walls.  There is nothing that can’t be laid to waste by super exaggerated martial arts.

You know, the only thing I really want to see in a martial arts movie is really awesome martial arts.  Iron Monkey has that in spades but the overuse of bad wire work completely ruined what could have been a really great time.  Instead, I kept rolling my eyes after every great sequence of fighting.  So close, yet so far…

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