Volume 95, Issue 24

Tuesday, October 16, 2001
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Wanted: two Bandits guilty of overdone plot

A visual masterpiece

Bruce and Emma both get a well-deserved Elbow

A visual masterpiece

No bananas for Iron Monkey

Iron Monkey

Yu Rong-Guang, Donnie Yen, Tsang Sze-Man

Directed by: Yuen Woo Ping

Four stars (out of five)

Gazette File Photo
I MAY BE AN IRON MONKEY BUT MY LEGS ARE RUBBER. Gravity defying martial arts requires some serious flexibility, as exemplified in the new movie, Iron Monkey.

By Pandora Du
Gazette Writer

Celebrated fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping defied gravity for The Matrix, did it again for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and now, in his latest release Iron Monkey, proves why his films are martial arts masterpieces.

The Iron Monkey is Dr. Yang, (Yu Rong-Guang) the Robin Hood of 19th century China. As the masked hero, he steals from the corrupt rulers of the Zhejing province and gives to the oppressed.

The debauched governor (James Wong) wants the Iron Monkey to be captured, but the Iron Monkey is the kind of hero who can fight, flip and "fly" his way out of any situation.

The only person able to compete with him is kung fu master Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen). He arrives in town with his son Wong Fei Hong (Tsang Sze-Man) and is forced to capture Iron Monkey when his son is been locked up by the governor.

With small dashes of comedy, simple yet effective twists of myth and complex action sequences, Iron Monkey doesn't disappoint. It is both visually and thematically pleasing.

Originally released in Asia in 1993, Iron Monkey is a prequel to the Once Upon a Time in China series.

Yuen Woo Ping's past work as the action choreographer on some notable blockbusters pays off here and Yuen's martial arts sequences are clearly the highlight of Iron Monkey. Most notable is the final scene where the kung fu masters battle atop unstable wooden poles to create a jaw-dropping visual masterpiece.

Jean Wang plays the female lead, Miss Orchid. Her character fights with noble morale and impressive skill, displaying a feminine power rarely seen in characteristically male-dominated action films. This sense of the empowered female is rarely found in stereotypical films of this genre.

Wong Fei Hong, who later grows up to be a Chinese folk hero, shines in many of the big fight sequences. Perhaps most effective is the scene where Hong brandishes his father's trademark umbrella in an imaginative display of creativity and strength. Surprisingly, Tsang Sze-Man, the actor playing Wong Fei Hong, is actually a girl.

The movie also shows its heart when Wong Kei-Ying tells his son, "A strong man sheds blood before he sheds tears," right before they separate. Not only do we then see a tear form in the son's eye, but the father, too, must turn away to hide his tears. The ideal Chinese father and son relationship is well-represented by the Wongs with realistic emotional displays like this.

Iron Monkey should be the remedy for filmgoers seeking escapism with an added sense of culture and morality. The characters may be speaking Cantonese and Mandarin (English subtitles are available), but such rousing entertainment rarely requires translation.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001