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A village is ruled by tyrannical gouvernor Cheng (James Wong), who
refuses to afford even basical aide to the victims of a flooding and
instead works everything exclusively into his own pocket. However, there
is one masked hero, Iron Monkey, a top martial artist, who
regularly raids the gouvernor's place and gives his money to the poor.
Iron Monkey in real life is of course the mild-manneered and benign
village doctor Yang (Yu Rongguang), who always hides his political
convictions in his day job so nobody suspects him, and only his assistant
Miss Orchid (Jean Wang) knows the truth ...
One day, after a particularly profitable raid, the gouvernor has all
sorts of people arrested on pure suspicion to force the Iron Monkey to
show himself. Among those arrested are also Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen) and
his young son Wong Fei Hung (Tsang Sze-Man), who are just travelling
through and who have no idea about the noble backgrounds of the Iron
Monkey's crimes. And to save the other captives, including his son, Kei
Ying, an expert martial artist, proposes to the gouvernor to catch the
criminal on his own, since he has already found out that the Iron Monkey's
martial arts skills just about match his own ...
Ironically, the villagers all turn their backs on Kei Ying, all but
Doctor Yang, who gives him and his son abode, but tries to stay out of his
way as the Iron Monkey, even if he makes another daring raid on the
gouvernor's place dressed up as royal inspector and emptying the place of
every penny there is ... just before the real royal inspector, Han Hing
(Yen Shi-Kwan) shows up, and he is not only a superior martial artist, he
also has a gang of renegade Shaolin cutthroats as his guards.
Ultimately, Han Hing puts both Iron Monkey and Kei Ying out of
commission using his Shaolin King Kong Fist, a stance that is normally
lethal, and only thanks to Doc Yang's talents as a doctor do both he and
Kei Ying survive. Of course, Kei Ying now finds out that the Doctor is
actually Iron Monkey - but since he now begins to understand his motives
and realizes that they have a common enemy, Han Hing, the two become
allies ... and not a moment too soon, since Han Hing's cutthroats are
already looking for him and have already kidnapped Kei Ying's son Fei
Ultimately everything leads up to a bit fight between Yang, Kei Ying
and Miss Orchid - with a little bit of help from the righteous but klutzy
gouvernment official Master Fox (Yuen Shun-Yee) - on one side and Han Hing
and his gang of cutthroats on the other, which ends in a fight above a
burning area on wooden poles, Yang and Kei Ying against Han Hing - and
guess who wins ...
Initially, this film was intended as a cash in on Tsui Hark's own
highly successful Wong Fei Hung-series Once Upon a
Time in China (from 1991 onwards), claiming to tell the story of
the lead character as a young boy - which is only partly true, actually Iron
Monkey tells the story of two grown-up heroes and Wong Fei Hung is
only a supporting character, with his being Wong Fei Hung having little to
do with the sotry.
That said, Iron Monkey is probably superior to the Once
Upon a Time in China-films, it's less epic in scale and features a
more stringent story plus the necesary hint of irony the Once Upon a
Time in China-films never got quite right. That all said of
course, story and storytelling are not the actual reasons to watch Iron
Monkey - actually it features little more than a quite basic martial
arts story that has been told a hundred times before -, it's the action
scenes, where director Yuen Woo-Ping, who also directed the martial arts
scenes, shows his true skills.The fight scenes, all of the wireworks
variety, are all competently and imaginatively shot, with one scene being
more original, more inventive and more breathtaking than the next. And
since these scenes are held together by a good cast and likeable
characters (even the villains, in their way), it's not so bad that the
rather basic story takes backseat.
Actually, Iron Monkey is a pretty good and totally entertaining