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Iron Monkey


Overall rating: ****

Director: Yuen Wo Ping

Starring: Rongguang Yu, Donnie Yen, Jean Wang, James Wong, Sze-Man Tsang

Tagline: One of the best movies about people kicking each other ever made.

So the girlfriend and I just got back from seeing Iron Monkey. After getting over my initial disappointment that the film was not a sequel to the 1986 Beastie Boys hip-hop hit Brass Monkey, I am happy to report that this is quite possibly one of the best movies about people kicking each other ever made.

Film: Iron Monkey stars Rongguang Yu as the Iron Monkey, a Chinese Robin Hood who robs from the rich governor and gives to the poor. The governor isn’t just rich, he’s truly evil. as is evidenced by his large, bushy, evil eyebrows which appeared to be made out of yarn.

Much like Batman, Zorro or J. Edgar Hoover, Iron Monkey has a secret identity. By day, he is a prominent local physician named Dr. Yang. The doctor business is thriving as he constantly fixes up the guys that he kicked the crap out of the night before. He is assisted by the lovely Ms. Orchid, a former prostitute turned nurse who is a major kung-fu bad-ass in her own right. It was unclear to me whether or not Ms. Orchid was actually Mrs. Iron Monkey. She did appear to be living at the monkey house.

After the Iron Monkey struck a blow for justice by lopping off one of the governor’s freakish eyebrows, the despot arrests Wong Kei-Ying, another kung-fu doctor visiting the province with his son Wong Fei-Hung. His son will be kept in the dungeon until Wong Kei-Ying captures the Iron Monkey.

So then the two good guys fight each other for a little bit–neither one noticing the other has perfectly normal, non-evil eyebrows–before they decide to team up to rescue Wong Fei-Hung.

Before they can do that, an even more evil bad guy shows up, with larger, more grotesque eyebrows. He leads a group of disgraced Shaolin monks against the Iron Monkey. So Iron Monkey, Mrs. Monkey, the other doctor and the kid all start beating the crap out of people in extremely artistic ways.

The action is directed by Yuen Wo Ping, who Western viewers may recognize as the choreographer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix. All of the numerous fight scenes look amazing. Let’s put it this way, Woo-ping Yuen actually managed to make Keanu Reeves look good. The man is a god.

A few notes about the film: Quentin Tarantino somehow managed to weasel his way into the opening credits, even though he was probably still asking people to “be kind, please rewind” when the film was originally released in Hong Kong in 1993. The boy Wong Fei-Hung was played by a girl for some reason. The movie is subtitled, which beats the crap out of the lousy dubbing they normally do for these things.

Wong Fei-Hung was a real guy. He is one of China’s most revered heroes. Jet Li played him as an adult in the acclaimed Once Upon A Time In China series and Jackie Chan played him in Drunken Master, also directed by Woo-ping Yuen and the best damn kung-fu movie of all time, Drunken Master II, which got released over here as Legend of the Drunken Master.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go trim my eyebrows.

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