A martial artist/doctor steals from the corrupt authorities as a masked thief to give to the poor while another martial artist/doctor is forced to hunt him down. But a major threat unites them as a powerful and traitorous shaolin monk takes over the authorities.
Dragon is now transferred to be the police head of Sai Wan district, and has to contend with a gangster kingpin, anti-Manchu revolutionaries, some runaway pirates, Manchu Loyalists and a corrupt police superintendent.
After failing to save his wife from 'The Doctor', Kit Li is working as a bodyguard and secret stunt double for the cowardly martial arts film star Frankie Lane. Frankie attends an ... See full summary »
A Hong Kong variation on Robin Hood. The corrupt officials of a Chinese village are continually robbed by a masked bandit know as "Iron Monkey" named after a benevolent deity. When all else fails, the Govenor forces a traveling physician (Donnie Yen) into finding the bandit. The arrival of an evil Shaolin monk, brings the Physician and Iron Monkey together to battle the corrupt government. Written by
Ronald L. Strong <RS080455@PACBELL.NET>
After watching films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Shaolin Soccer and immensely falling for them, I had some hesitancy with this film. With Tarantino's name attached to the previews, I had this growing concern that Hollywood had gripped this film a bit too hard, thus squeezing out any remaining value or originality. I had heard of the stories of Harvey "Scissorhands" and his ability to really do a number on these Asian films that find their way into our cinemas. I have heard that if you ever really want to fully enjoy one of these films, do not touch those with the name Miramax stamped anywhere. With this in mind, I believe you can see where the hesitancy was coming from, but I need to be honest, this wasn't a horrible film. Using a pre-Wachowski brothers technique of wires instead of "bullet-time" effects, Iron Monkey quickly transformed from your average Shaolin film (if there is such a thing), to a very humorous, creative, and original film.
For some strange reason this film caught my eye and never let go. The strong blend between action and comedy rivals that of most modern Hollywood big-budget features. The impeccable timing of the actors, the perfection of each of the dance-like fights, and its ability to transcend from one genre to another is what really gave this film a big boost in my eyes. While I was expecting a notorious film full of girth and power, I was not in any way expecting this prize-winning, genre-jumping, symposium of pleasure. Everything from the balloonish characters to the simple, yet structured, story pushed this film beyond others of similar nature. I cannot express how impressed that I was with Iron Monkey and how it helped bring the martial arts film back into American homes.
Another element that I enjoyed immensely in this film was the mystic forces behind the characters. The different Shaolin techniques impressed me and helped give the characters a masked depth to them. Being relatively new to this genre, I am constantly impressed by the power, creativity, and ingenuity of the basic moves that Shaolin implies while in battle. In this film, it was the "Buddha Palm" that made me utter the infamous Keanu line, "Whoa". While this film wasn't perfection in a nutshell, it was enjoyable to go back to some of these "classics" and see where our now-modern films are borrowing their style. It is good to see the strength and ability of someone fresh instead of Hollywood Jackie Chan in these roles. Asian cinema is one of the most impressive genres in film, and continually it proves that it can break old molds and stereotypes by revamping them while still paying homage to the originals. It is a genre, unlike Hollywood, that actually pays honest respect to the proceeding films that gave them this opportunity, and while Iron Monkey isn't Criterion-esquire, it does provide several hours of countless fun and mind-challenging action.
Finally, you cannot talk about a film like this without mentioning the action. I grew up in a house that prided itself on the popularity of the action film, and while my tastes have changed considerably over the years, it is always a pleasure to revisit in my mind those childhood days. Now, when I go back to visit my family, I take films like Iron Monkey and Shaolin Soccer to bring a new style of action into the home. It continues to be an instant hit. This film was no different. From the quick hand and leg combat, to the creative use of nearly every random inanimate object around, to the different elements of nature that are brought in to bring more thrill to the table, this film had everything and kept the enjoyment level high. That says a lot for a little Asian film that found itself corrupted by America.
Overall, I was very impressed with this film. With my growing infatuation with this genre of film, I cannot wait to get my hands on more. While I wish that Miramax would not try to take these films to the butcher's block, they still provide several hours of enjoyment and plenty of action. In intensity and insanity of the actors help create a world where you believe in the impossible kung-fu move and allow even more punches to follow. This was a great film that should be enjoyed with subtitles (never dubbing) and without the Tarantino introduction. Check it out, I do not think it will bring disappointment.
Grade: **** out of *****
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