By Allie Smyth
1858 saw the Chinese countryside ravished by the unjust and corrupt officials of the Qing Dynasty. But in the town of Chekiang, a hero rose to defend the people.
First released in 1993, Iron Monkey may be a Chinese folk story, but the heroes are universal and will be easily recognized, especially by those familiar with the classic legend of Robin Hood.
In a desperate era, a masked vigilante emerges from the shadows of the night to strike against a corrupt government and bring hope–and money–to the oppressed. They call him the Iron Monkey. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor.
Directed by Yuen Wo Ping of The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, the film offers breathtaking action sequences with a touch of elegant drama our mythos sometimes lacks. Add a subtle sexuality, tongue in cheek humor, an inspirational soundtrack and a happy ending, and its got everything one could ever want in a film.
A well-choreographed adventure film, the audience may be somewhat distracted by the obvious similarity of the characters to those of Disney’s animated Robin Hood. Especially amusing is the portrayal of Iron Monkey’s villain, the Governor, who is as whiny and snivelling as Disney’s Prince John–who spends his time sucking his thumb and pulling on his ear.
The film incorporates the Chinese folk tale character Iron Monkey (Yu Rong Guang) with the real life Chinese heroes Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and Wong Fei-Hung (Tsang Sze-Man), who combine forces to balance the fate of the Empire with loyalty, friendship, pride and trust.
Historically, Wong Fei-Hung is one of the most celebrated martial artists in China. Born in Guangdong, Canton in 1847, Fei-Hung became a hero to the people, establishing a local militia, a Kung Fu school and eventually leading the revolt against the Qing Dynasty. His father, Wong Kei Ying, was one of the original Ten Tigers of Canton, and remained loyal to the Shaolin Temple even after it was destroyed by imperial conspirators.
It is a story of the fight of good against evil. It has entertainment value for all ages, but will likely be more appreciated by an adult audience who will understand the humour in the script and enjoy the parody.
Go to this movie expecting to be enthralled and you won’t be disappointed.
Everyone needs a hero.