Yuen Woo Ping
It doesn’t really revolutionize kung fu flicks per se, but IRON MONKEY has one of the highest pedigrees you can possibly expect from the genre. In addition to Yen, famed choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (who would later find great success with THE MATRIX and CROUCHING TIGER) directs and celebrated director Tsui Hark (TIME AND TIDE) produces. And thankfully everybody brings their A-game to the table, making for a higher quality product than most fu flicks. The fight choreography and stunt work are fantastic throughout, and the film doesn’t skimp on the fight scenes. (The ridiculous stuff Chinese stuntmen are forced to do is worth the price of admission alone.) Donnie Yen and IRON MONKEY Rongguang Yu do unbelievably fast and intricate work; Yen’s legs fly so fast that even parts that are obviously slowed down are still a sight to behold.
IRON MONKEY is all about the fights, so if you’re looking for strong dialogue or story, this might not be the vehicle for you. Although the plot is a nice mix of vigilante mythology, a retelling of Robin Hood and the legend of Wong Fei Hung, the same Chinese folk hero played by Jackie Chan in DRUNKEN MASTER and Jet Li in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA
Yuen Woo Ping is pretty creative in coming up with new situations and settings for the fights, even if it can get a little far fetched at times. Like a lot of wire driven movies in the genre, you’ll have to suspend a decent amount of disbelief with regards to the laws of physics and just enjoy the awesome choreography for what it is. But if you can’t see the joy in a bunch of guys fighting on poles with flaming feet over a lake of fire, then I feel bad for you.
Quentin Tarantino Interview: A lot of this is about Tarantino’s championing of little known cult or foreign films, as well as the man’s eclectic taste when it comes to appreciating all genres of cinema. He does go in to his love of IRON MONKEY and Yen and it’s always an experience listening to Tarantino’s manic energy when he’s on topic.
Donnie Yen Interview: I actually preferred this interview with the oft forgotten Yen, who explains how he got his start in the industry, the making of IRON MONKEY and other topics that will be of great interest to HK film fans.
Extra Tidbit: The crucial role of the young Wong Fei Hung in this movie is actually played by a girl.