Iron Monkey (1993) – Woo-Ping Yuen

 

A Robin Hood style adventure launches the kung fu in this highly enjoyable addition to the 101 Action Movies list.

Yu Rong-Guang stars as Dr. Yang, who along with his assistant Miss Orchid (Jean Wang) tends to the poor and the refugees in a small village. The village’s governor (James Wong) however is only there to get rich, and using a corrupt sect of Shaolin monks attempts to squeeze all he can from the residents.

Yang, takes to the rooftops as the legendary Iron Monkey, liberating food and money to give to the poor, all while endlessly tormenting the governor.

When Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his son arrive Fei-hong (actress Sze-Man Tsang), they are seized by the local authorities under suspicion of being the Iron Monkey. Even after his innocence is proven, the governor jails Fei-hong until his father successfully arrests the Iron Monkey.

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Once Yang rescues the child, and Wong realizes how cruel the governor and the newly arrived Royal Minister (Yee Kwan Yan) really are, he joins forces with the doctor and the two of them fight for justice.

That’s about as deep as the story gets, but you don’t need tons of story when you have such brilliant fight sequences! Orchestrated with a ballet-like beauty, the fight sequences are that much more engaging because all of the actors were trained martial artists. Yes, there’s wire-work, and some dizzying acrobatics, but it all totally works within the context of the film, and on top of that, it’s just so much fun!

The final fight sequence is fought atop burning poles as Yang and Wong take on the minister who has a number of dangerous and deadly moves himself.

Yuen’s choreography is nothing short of breath-taking, and there are a number of stand out sequences! I love when young Fei-hong took on a bunch of neighborhood thugs – the speed and the humor combined to make a brilliant sequence.

Iron Monkey, 1993

It comes as no surprise that he went on to choreograph the fights in films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which are both films I’m looking to revisiting shortly.

Some of the moves and the amazing talent behind them are simply jaw-dropping, but for all that the film doesn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s just there to have a lot of fun, and entertain.

This one easily does that, and more.

It’s a film that embraced his action side, heck it locks it in a big bear hug and refuses to let it go, but will also take moments to make you laugh, and hint at a father-son reconciliation for the two Wongs.

The fight scenes have gone on to be iconic, and have influenced not only other Eastern films, but countless Western ones as well.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, make sure you find time to do so! And if you have seen it, what’s your favorite move or fight sequence that the film shows?

donnie

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