review by Jerome

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Review: Tsui Hark’s production of Iron Monkey is a side story to the Once Upon A Time In China films. The Cantonese title “Tit ma lau ji siu nin Wong Fei Hung” translates as The Iron Monkey and the Young Wong Fei Hung.

Yu Rong Guang plays the titular character, a doctor (Dr Yang) by day and a robin-hood type of character by night. He heels the poor free of charge, and the charges the rich for sicknesses. As the Iron Monkey, he steals greedy Governor Cheng’s (James Wong) riches and distributes it to the poor of Zhejiang province, China. He does so, because as he explains to Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen), that his father was once an official who was killed by other officials due to greed. Yu Rong Guang accurately portrays the legendary Iron Monkey, reputedly a real historical figure like Hung Hei Goon, Wong Fei Hung, Fong Sai Yuk, Leung Jaan and Huo Yuan Jia.

Taiwanese actress / model, Jean Wang plays Ms. Orchid, a former prostitute redeemed from her profession by Dr Yang after her baby was born stillborn. He teaches her martial arts and is his assistant at his clinic, Baak Cho Tong. She’s also his love interest, as several scenes indicate this throughout the film; including the scene atop the roof at night when it is raining, and she holds an umbrella waiting for him.

Donnie Yen stands out as Master Wong Kei Ying, one of Canton’s Ten Tigers and a doctor from Fat Saan. Wong Kei Ying is responsible for catching the Iron Monkey, when he and his son Fei Hung (Angie Tsang) mistakenly arrested for participating in fights with local hoodlums and protesting the innocence, of anyone appearing to have some association with the Iron Monkey. However, they unite to fight against the treacherous monk Hin Hung, who allied with the Qing officials and burnt down the Shaolin temple.

Donnie was responsible for some of the films exclusive action sequences, including the execution of the “No Shadow Kick” and the inclusion of the Tiger and Crane form of the Hung Gar style.

Yuen Shun Yee plays the comical security chief, Fox. He was assigned to protect Governor Cheng (James Wong) and prevent thieves such as Iron Monkey from stealing his treasure and assets. Every attempt to secure the governor’s estate, he is outwitted by Iron Monkey (Yu Rong Guang). However, he is sympathetic to Wong Kei Ying’s situation when Fei Hung is locked up in jail; and goes against his duties to secure his wellbeing.

Yam Sai Goon plays Hin Hung, the Shaolin monk responsible for the Shaolin temple’s destruction and now a Legate officer. He comes to Zhejiang to rid the province of Iron Monkey. He is an expert in the King Kong Palm, Luohan Invincible Hand, and the Thunder and Wind King Kong Palm. Yam Sai Goon is suited to play this bastardy character, because he goes against the Buddhist tradition of being a monk. The traditional monk cannot eat meat, kill intentionally and engage in sexual behaviour with women.

Wu Shu practioner and stunt doubler, Li Fai and Shaw Brother’s veteran Xiao Hou play Hin Hung’s disfigured disciples / assassins, whilst Angie Tsang (a female) who is also a professional in Wu Shu plays the young Wong Fei Hung. She portrays him as the mischievous child of Wong Kei Ying and performs exceptionally in the martial arts department.

Iron Monkey is one of the best new wave kung fu films of it’s time, since there were many films being shot in 1993, although not a very successful film at the Hong Kong box office, it did very well overseas when it was re-released. Highly recommended flick from the fight director of the Matrix Trilogy, the Yuen Clan.

I rate it 9/10

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Genre: Wushu/Martial Arts/Epic
Director: Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: YU Rong Guang (Yu Wing Gwong), Donnie YEN, YUEN Shun Yee, Angie TSANG Sze Man, LI Fai, Jean Wang, YAM Sai Goon, James WONG Jim, Xiao Hou (Siu Hau).
Reviewed by Jerome (Bart), July 2006