The Iron Monkey

The Iron Monkey is an intense, action-packed, dynamic, and moving story of graceful warriors fighting other graceful warriors (and grace is all that matters).

By day, Dr. Yang (Yu Rong Guang) heals the sick; at night, he takes on the guise of the Iron Monkey, a vigilante with a price on his head. Aided by his assistant, Orchid Ho (Jean Wang), the Iron Monkey steals from the rich and gives to the poor and suffering. Cheng (James Wong), the Governor of the province where the Iron Monkey operates, is out to get him and coerces a passing Kung Fu expert, Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen), to capture the outlaw. Cheng holds Wong Fei Hong (Tsang Sze man), the young son of Wong Kei Ying, prisoner to ensure that the Shaolin master does his bidding. (Wong Fei Hong later shows up in Drunken Master and The Legend of the Drunken Master, both Jackie Chan films.) Thus the two Shaolin warriors are pitted against each other, but slowly they overcome their differences and work together to undermine Cheng's authority.

The Iron Monkey does well what I wish many movies of its ilk would do: reduce the plot to a minimum and keep the action constant. In a movie dedicated to action, there's no need to have any time devoted to plot: it can all be explained using text on a single frame.

Like with other films of its kind, most notably Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the plot here hints of alliances and betrayals from the past. The film has a great villain in Hiu Hing (Yee Kwan Yan), a Shaolin traitor who has corrupted the monkhood for his own gain, and it takes the two protagonists to defeat him (and they do so only barely).

The final battle where the Iron Monkey and Wong Kei Ying work together to defeat Hiu Hung is a classic. It takes place with the fighters balanced on poles that are slowly burning as they kick and pound on each other. The mix of grace and danger had me on the edge of my seat.

The Iron Monkey, directed by Yuen Wo Ping (who choreographed the fight scenes in The Matrix, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), is an awesome film to watch. I recommend checking it out on the big screen.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||