Iron Monkey Business

Iron Monkey is probably my favorite kung-fu movie.

I noticed there was no English subtitles for the trailer but I watched it anyway. It’s pretty amazing how much of the final boss fight they show. They actually give away quite a bit of the movie, but I guess no one cares?

“Iron Monkey” refers to a Zorro-like masked bandit who fights corrupt rulers. When the movie starts we’re introduced to a corrupt and hedonistic Governor and his inept and corrupt chief of police (Fox). Iron Monkey easily defeats them and is later revealed to be the benevolent physician Yang Tiachun, aided by his assistant, Miss Orchid.

Then enters Wong Kei-ying, physician, martial artist, and played by Donnie Yen. He and his son, Wong Fei-hung, have come to town for some reason. Wong Kei-ying fights some thugs and, as a result, gets hauled into the Governor’s on the suspicion that he’s Iron Monkey. The Governor then holds Fei-hung hostage on the condition that Kei-ying captures Iron Monkey.

It seems pretty complicated when I write it all out because that’s like the first ten minutes of the movie.

This movie is great. I’ve watched many kung-fu movies and I still think that this one is probably my top favorite. Donnie Yen is one of the greatest kung-fu movie actors, in my opinion. He starred in and did the fight choreography for Blade II, another favorite of mine. He was also in Ip Man and Ip Man 2, also great movies.

One thing that fascinated me about this movie is how I, as an American, thought the main character was Kei-ying. But it turns out that the real protagonist is Fei-hung. Wong Fei-hung is an actual Chinese folk hero, and this movie is kind of like, I assume, The Young Adventures of Indiana Jones. He’s the hero everyone recognizes, but as a kid. It’s pretty interesting.

Another thing I think about in this movie is how there are degrees of corruption that are acceptable. Fox, the police chief, is kind of a bumbling buffoon, and openly corrupt, but he’s also show to be a good guy, rallying to the good guys in the face of an… even… more corrupt guy?

The more corrupt guy is an evil Shaolin monk who has dedicated himself to a life of opulence? It’s really hard to say. Either way, there are great kung-fu fights, and the story is good enough, and the actors great enough, that it all comes together to make a kung-fu movie worth watching.

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