Iron Monkey DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Iron Monkey DVD review
Jun 13, 2000, 16:01

IRON MONKEY directed by Woo-Ping Yuen; Tai Seng Video, 2000

So, how is it that a movie review ends up running in a newspaper on the day it opens?

It's a simple process, actually. A few days before a movie opens, a studio representative or proxy will host an advance screening. A handful of reviewers show up in an empty theater to watch the film, take notes and formulate a review.

What's wrong with this picture?

It turns the movie-going experience into something akin to watching a videotape alone at home. You end up missing out on that physical and emotional experience that occurs when you have images on the screen interacting with a theater full of people.

On a recent Tuesday, I went to an advance screening of Hong Kong action flick Iron Monkey. But unlike most, it was open to the public. And that made all the difference.

You see, this isn't the kind of film you take notes on or think about. (Full disclosure: I did none of either.) Rather, it's a rush of adrenaline that will spin your head dizzy.

Iron Monkey is set in the mid ninteenth century in Eastern China, where a corrupt governor (James Wong) exploits a people living in misery and starvation. Their only hope is a masked marauder, Iron Monkey (Yu Rong Guang), who steals from the rich to feed the poor.

The Robin Hood-like story is nothing new or special. It does little more than to set up a series of god vs. evil kung fu duels between Shaolin monks. But the action is enough to keep you squirming in your seat and “oohing” and “ahing” for 87 minutes.

Directed by Hong Kong action master Yuen Wo Ping, Iron Monkey features footage that makes the scenes he staged for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix seem like your everyday chop-socky.

Fight sequences defy gravity, a la Crouching Tiger. Monks climb and somersault over walls, balance on sticks and fly from rooftop to rooftop. Every object, meanwhile, is used as a weapon. Bags of wheat, barrels, twigs, even shoes are hurled to hurt and used to shield.

The real kicker, however, is that the battles in Iron Monkey exist on scales and speeds grander and more blazing than anything since Jackie Chan's 1970s Hong Kong heyday.

Throughout, Iron Monkey and his nemesis-turned-accomplice, Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen), take turns dueling with bands of bad guys who come off like bruising brutes from some evil ballet company.

The battle comes to a head in an amazing finale in which the Iron Monkey and Wong battle a nasty Royal Minister (Yen Yee Kwan) by high-kicking and tip-toeing like Olympic gymnasts over burning branches.

But don't let me spoil it by explaining what happens. After all, action, energy, and adrenaline cannot be explained. They have to be experienced

-John Petkovic

Filed Under: Film-DVD-VideoFilm-DVD-Video Reviews

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