Iron Monkey Cover Monkeys are one of the most respected creatures in the animal kingdom. They are known for their congenial nature. They are praised for their physical prowess. And they are revered for their sh*t throwing abilities too. Just ask Director: Yuen Woo-Ping; or Actors: Donnie Yen, Jean Wang, and Rondduang Yu. But only for 88-minutes  in 1993. 

Iron Monkey

A frugal governor of an ancient Chinese province, is really pissed off with the dark-clad avenger called Iron Monkey (Ronagguang Yu).

This darkly-hued avenger steals from him you see, and his chief constable, Fox, is unable to capture him either.

Though, why is that, huh? Well, unbeknownst to most of the people in this small hamlet, the Iron Monkey is actually the alter ego of a Chinese physician named, Yang Tianchun. By day, Yang provides a free medical clinic for the poor. Whilst, by night, he dresses up in black, and travels around the town to rob from the rich so that he can give to the poor some more.

If you will, try to think of him as a Chinese version of Robin Hood with a doctorate.

In fact, the governor is so infuriated with Iron Monkey's antics, that, one day, when his soldiers observe a newly arrived physician / martial artist, named Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen) - with his young son, Wong Fei-hung - do battle with street thugs whom attempt to rob them - well - they suspect that Kei-ying is the Iron Monkey - and they arrest him and his son in the process.

Now I am sure that you will agree with me, when I say that this sounds very silly, right? However, is it as silly as the trial some time later, when the governor orders Wong Fei-Hung to be branded for defiance. Or, is it as silly as when Iron Monkey suddenly shows up to disrupts these proceedings, only for Wong's father, Kei-ying, to fight with Iron Monkey, so that he can prove his innocence!

Thankfully, though, neither Fei-Hung nor Monkey are able to best their opponent - as Iron Monkey manages to get away Scoff free - and the governor orders Kei-ying’s to find Iron Monkey, keeping his son, Wong, as a bargaining tool.

Ohhhh! Poor Kei-ying! All the locals despise him for assisting the governor - because they see the Iron Monkey as they’re hero and protector. Well, I suppose that is why what next transpires is a really hoot of an adventure for doctor and vigilante alike. As children turn sick - a Shaolin traitor becomes a bit of a prick - monkeys divide - governors hide - and a partnerships is forged in the eyes of a future guide.

A beginning.

First off, let me just say that I am a sap for 'Iron Monkey', because: (1) I like monkeys. (2) I like metal encased monkeys. (3) I like Chinese cinema. (4) I like Kung-Fu based Chinese cinema. (6) I like Kung-Fu based Chinese cinema with monkeys in them. And (5) I like writing numbers out of sequence. Ha!

Iron Monkey
Seriously, though, this film is a blast, as it acts as a prequel to the ‘Once Upon a Time in China’ series of movies, introducing the young Wong Fei-Hung before he becomes the legendary man of Chinese folklore. Also, on a pure story level, I find that this movie centers around Yang (the Iron Monkey) and Kei-ying (Fei-hung’s father) in the atypical hero vs hero type way. You know the score, hero hates hero – hero befriends hero – before hero and hero team up, and  then kick the s**t out of the bad guys, YEEE-HAAAA!.

Now in my opinion, the martial arts prowess of Donnie Yen and his kung-fu cohorts is just top wack (that means that I like it). Moreover, I feel that their level of dynamism is greatly aided by the well polished and atmospheric lighting and backgrounds on display - as they are very picturesque indeed. Plus, in addition to this, I did enjoy the way in which each of the battles have a story to tell, as if a kick or a punch have a reason to exist in each scene.

Iron Monkey Thanks to

Well, personally speaking, this is precisely what I find so refreshing about martial arts movies like this one - it is not only about who is the best in what-ever-you-fancy, it is much more than that. I find that it is as though the action and the characterization are one single entity, with each aspect symbiotically feeding off of each other, trying to feel relevant and complete as a whole.

Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey

However, whilst this film is great on one level, on another level, it has one large fundamental flaw - and that flaw remains in the plot. You see, the rather simple way how 'character a' bumps into 'character b', or how 'person a' is not present when 'person a' is needed, is sometimes rather played out and silly - overtly contrived even.

Plus, another criticism I have is with 'Iron Monkey', is the dubbing. Sometimes it just meanders a bit too far out of sync, making the flow of dialogue ‘too mushy’ at times, and the acting 'hammy'.

Please note, this glitch does not really impedes the movie in its entirety, because you can still follow what is happening in this film just fine. It’s just sometimes that it does come across as feeling ‘too dubbed’ - if you know what I mean.

Overall, though, this film hold up pretty well on its own merits - with beautiful action sequences – cinematography – colour pallet – and a traditional feel, just like an oil painting from ancient times.

Fighting in Iron Monkey

Chinese ancient times of course.