AKA: The Young Wong Fei-Hung
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Stars: Yu Rong-Guang, Donnie Yen
A remake of a 70's kung fu movie that has been made into a kind of "semi-official" prequel to the popular Once Upon a Time in China series (it was produced by OUATIC's director, Tsui Hark). Yu plays the "Iron Monkey," a Robin Hood-esque character who is a doctor by day and steals from the corrupt at night. The town leaders are getting sick of the Monkey's antics, so they decide to arrest anyone "questionable," among them Wong Fei-Hung and his dad, Wong Kei-Ying (played by Yen, who starred in a different role in another Wong Fei-Hung film, Once Upon a Time in China 2). After seeing his kung-fu skills, the police coerce Fei-Hung's dad into going after the Iron Monkey.
I guess how much you would like Iron Monkey depends on how much you like exaggerated wire-fu. When I say "exaggerated," I really mean it in this case. The movie has really no sense in reality; even pieces of clothing become deadly weapons and the fighters seem to not conform to the laws of gravity. Combined with the somewhat weak, unoriginal story (save for the fact that it shows Wong Fei-Hung as a child, something rarely done) this could be a real stinker for some people. But I really enjoyed it. The action is fast and furious, and save for a few instances where the special effects look cheap (think flying dummies), it looks really good as well, especially during the final fracas, which takes place on top of flaming poles. You can file this one in the "guilty pleasures" file; it won't win any awards any time soon, and most "purists" hate it, but it makes for a hell of a fun way to kill 90 minutes.
Note: the US release has been cut by about 8 minutes (most of the more violent bits were trimmed to obtain a milder PG-13 rating). Here are details of some of the cuts, as posted by Brian Naas on the Mobius forum:
"Actually, there are a fair number of small cuts from the film - ones that diminish some of the violence and others that take out the political commentary that Tsui Hark slips into many of his films. A few that come to mind:
On top of this were lots of other really tiny bits cut out that were taken out - such as Donnie making a comment that Miss Orchid was taking too long to cook the soup or when he was about to eat the dirty bun he was willing to do so only because his son was not there. Another total scene removed is after Wong Fei Hung takes the medicine from Miss Orchid - in this version it cuts immediately to him selling the pills - and leaves out a kung fu exhibition that he gives to the crowd.
One other thing that I am not sure about - but it felt like some of the action scenes were slightly sped up"
Having seen the movie the other night, I agree with what Brian has said. The action scenes were sped up -- there were a couple of points where it was very obvious, such as when Iron Monkey fights the two Shaolin lackeys. The subtitles also change the dialogue a bit; there is more swearing in the US version, and there are some other changes, such as calling the "No Shadow Kick" a "Shadow Kick" (this makes the jokes about the move pretty useless). Overall, though, it's not a bad edit (if you could call such a thing "good") -- the new soundtrack sounds great.
A review of the DVD (US version) can be found here
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