I have to admit, this movie wasn’t too bad the twentieth time around. I’ve owned this movie for about three years on video. I guess with all the hype and hoopla surrounding Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon some genius realized that despite years and years of underground martial arts fandom going unnoticed, people want to see these movies. A few bucks and a contract later, and the at-large public finally gets to see what many of us have known all along-kung-fu flicks are pretty damn cool.
I do have to make a qualification here though. The Iron Monkey that I own on video is a dubbed version and, as with most martial arts movies, a pretty poorly dubbed one at that. So it was a shock that the version hitting theaters is subtitled (incidentally, the subtitles were written by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself-nice). And so it is with great satisfaction that I can say, again as most of us kung-fu junkies have always known, subtitles, when done right, rock. What came off as ridiculous before dubbing now sounds quite fitting and, it could be said, profound.
And so we have the new Iron Monkey. Directed by the now legendary Yuen Wo Ping (The Matrix), Iron Monkey is the story of love, loss, redemption and salvation, and the search for inner peace amidst outward turmoil. Nah, not really. Iron Monkey is a clever excuse for some of the most spectacular action scenes ever choreographed. What we have here is nothing more than a thinly veiled re-working of the Robin Hood stories where the heroes rob from the filthy rich and give to the dirt poor (Filthy rich? Dirt poor? A pattern do I see?). Here, Robin Hood is one Doctor Yang (Yu Rong Guang) and his ally is the legendary Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen), a character actually based on real Chinese folklore and also the focus of several Jet Li movies. Anyway, after Wong Kei Ying’s son is kidnapped by the evil Shaolin monk Hin Hung, the crap really hits the fan.
It would be impossible to describe the action scenes in the movie. They are simply incredible. If you thought that the bamboo fight in Crouching Tiger was amazing, wait until you see the finale of Iron Monkey, in which our two heroes fight the evil monk on a set of wooden stakes over a raging fire. Amazing. Those who have seen this already know what I mean, although I do urge you to see it again on the big screen. For the uninitiated, do yourself a favor and check Iron Monkey out. You won’t even have to pay attention to the subtitles.
+ marc ruppell