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少年黃飛鴻之鐵馬騮 (1993)
Iron Monkey

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 06/08/2009
Summary: Still great after all these years

I can't count how many times I've seen this and leaving huge impressions on me each time upon the several viewings, and having seen it this time around didn't change anything so much for me. The experience was yet another lovely one when I often rewatch movies that weren't seen for quite some years.

The story however is another variant one wouldn't be strange to as this is one of too many productions cashing on the huge success of Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA trilogy, that felt and looked cheap, rushed, less ambitious, less serious, and less energized. Years ago I wouldn't have said this to IRON MONKEY but now, I feel it just about fits into that category though as there seem to have something missing that only Hark's movies had. But I have to say that the movie fares much better than most (or even all) of the movies made in the subgenre because (thanks to Tsui Hark himself being onboard as producer) still had enough touches, style, seriousness, ambition to make the viewer care alot. Yuen Woo Ping's direction is decent but had this been entirely his production (part of this being a Tsui Hark/Film Workshop production), it would've been easy to single this out as the great movie it ended up being. Another thing that could've been better is the pacing (it's a bit uneven and fast) but I guess I'm too used to slowpaced movies so I'll let this nitpick slip away, the movie is still fine as it as.

If anything, what makes the movie memorable more than anything else is the action. Yuen Woo Ping and co, with IRON MONKEY, created arguably the most impressive MA scenes of the subgenre in my mind. Yes, which means it even goes as far as topping the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA trilogy and any other new wave kung fu movie in the action choreography department. Perhaps something like Ronny Yu's FEARLESS or Wilson Yip's IP MAN could really equal Yuen Woo Ping's brilliant action work here but otherwise I can't think of any other MA movie, old or new, coming even close to that achievement.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/04/2007

Dr Yan (Yu Rong-Guang) is an honest doctor by day and the notorious Iron Monkey by night. Iron Monkey is a kind of Santa Claus, Robin Hood and Batman all rolled into one – robbing from the opulent Qing lords, giving the proceeds to flood victims and doling out justice to evildoers along the way. Naturally, the authorities aren’t too keen on this sort of behaviour and put a price on Iron Monkey’s head. So when one of the Ten Tigers of Kwan-Tung himself shows up, Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) along with his young son Fei-Hung (Angie Tsang), he is quickly asked to help out, which ostracises him from the local population, which idolises the Monkey. When Wong Fei-Hung is kidnapped by the officials, Kei-Ying begins to doubt the validity of the authorities’ claims against the Iron Monkey...

This is an official prequel to the Once Upon a Time in China series, set when Wong Fei-Hung was still a young boy. The film kicks off with some of the most outrageous wirework I’ve ever seen outside parody. I have to admit not being terribly keen on that sort of thing, but things then settle down for a while until Wong Kei-Ying shows up. I’ve always been a little wary of Donnie Yen as a lot of his fight scenes are undercranked to the point of silliness, and sadly that’s the case here as well. His introduction fight is the worst, in which he fights off foes with his umbrella in what will eventually become his son’s chosen weapon in future films. In case there are still people unaware, in this instalment Fei-Hung is played by a thirteen-year-old girl – Angie Tsang Sze-Man, a member of Hong Kong’s national WuShu team at the time. She’s fantastic, especially armed with a pole, and gives the grown-ups something to worry about.

Anyone familiar with Dreadnought and Drunken Tai-Chi will know Yuen Shun-Yi, brother of director Yuen Wo-Ping. He has one of the most distinctive faces in the industry and when given a decent part, often specializes in playing homicidal maniacs. Here, however, he provides most of the comic relief for the movie as the surprisingly honest and sympathetic Qing General and is a genuine scene-stealer.

Iron Monkey is agreeable enough but the excessive wirework and Donnie Yen’s undercranked performance take the shine off as far as I’m concerned. It’s good that it provides some background in the fictionalised history of Wong Fei-Hung as told in the Once Upon a Time in China series (complete with umbrella). There are a lot of enjoyable scenes and performances here, that’s for sure, and I certainly don’t begrudge the film’s popularity. But it’s a little short of an all-out classic in my view. Mind you, I say the same about Drunken Master 2...

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/18/2005
Summary: The legendary Yuen Woo Ping gives birth to the masterpiece of his life....

Unarguably one of the best directed / action-choreographed movies from Yuen Woo Ping, with a blend of romance / martial arts / atmosphere, which makes this among the best movies to premiere in HK Cinema in the 1990’s. The producer for this movie was Tsui Hark, and the return collaboration from both Yuen and Tsui, since ‘Once Upon a Time in China 2’, shows an assertive masterpiece with very minor flaws and great integrity, portraying the future potential of both visionaries.

The film starts with the exploits of Dr. Yang (played by ‘Yu Rong-Guang’), a kind-hearted physician, whom spends most of his daytime treating the sick, near free treatment to the poor and overcharging the rich for the price of medicine. Then during night-time changes his role to ‘Iron Monkey’, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, like the Chinese Robin Hood sort of character, relentlessly opposing the subjugations of the ruling Ching Government. Dr. Yang also has a beautiful assistant named ‘Orchid’ (played by ‘Jean Wang’, from other recognizable roles in ‘Once Upon a Time in China 4 and 5’) assisting him in both his roles, and also somewhat of a love interest. The romance is evident, yet no intimacy or explicitness portraying both their affection, which helps enforce the genre this film is set out to be, a kung-fu movie!!

Eventually Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen), member of the legendary ‘Ten Tigers of Canton’ and the young teenager Wong Fei Hung (Tzang Tse-Man) arrive in town shortly afterwards. Unfortunately they are soon arrested with several other villagers, mistakenly assumed to be in collusion with the ‘Iron Monkey’, by the Ching government. After Wong Kei Ying is cleared of the charges his troubles only begin to escalate, as his son Wong Fei Hung is kept hostage by the Ching Government, until Kei Ying can capture the real ‘Iron Monkey’ and bring him to justice. Finally Wong Kei Ying mistakenly takes refuge in Dr. Yang’s residence, not aware what his real identity is, but shortly after a few unfortunate events everything is brought to light. Wong Kei Ying and Dr. Yang ally together to take down ‘Hiu Hing’ (Yen Shi-Kwan), a high-ranking government official whom is not only corrupt but is a disgraced Shaolin Monk, mastered in the deadly art of Buddha’s Palm. The final showdown takes place in the governor’s house, where both Dr. Yang and Kei Ying take on Hiu Hing on top of wooden logs above a heap of burning rubble, naturally one of the best action-choreographed scenes and imaginative sets ever to grace the HK Cinema.

There is plenty of character development and much is explained on the background of each individual main character and their past history. Also Wong Fei Hong is taught martial arts from both Dr. Yang and Wong Kei Ying and this very well portrays Wong Fei Hong’s talent to adopt any form of martial arts, which makes it an excellent prequel to the ‘Once Upon a Time in China’ series. It’s no exaggeration to quote that Iron Monkey is probably one of the best martial arts movies in the last decade. Very few films can even match the sort of talent and action choreography in this movie (along with the great ‘Moon Warriors’). The kung fu styles used in this movie are unique and impressive and help meet the viewer’s expectation of the genre. The storyline is straight-forward but parts of the movie seem to ruin the whole Feng Shui of the Movie, mostly the part when four expelled Shaolin Monks are always parading the streets, capturing innocent women (using ether as a form of sedative) in the hopes of raping them afterwards. Fortunately, our male hero’s are not too far away to stop this madness and bring order once again.

Overall Rating: 8.8/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: faisal
Date: 08/01/2003
Summary: Very slick modern martial arts film.

Clearly a lot of money (for a hong kong film) went into this. This is very slick and the acting, music and screenplay is way ahead of most other hong kong films of this type.
The action most of the time is awesome. I say most of the time, because some scenes (notably the last part of the end fight scene) has some stupid wirework moves where the actors totally and impossibly defy the laws of gravity. Theres a fine line between unrealistic but enjoyable fight scenes and completely implausible and ridiculous fight scenes.
Still this is one of the best martial arts movies around.

Reviewed by: Wu'xiaBadger
Date: 01/29/2003
Summary: More fun then a barrel of...

I really liked this movie a great deal. The fighting, acting, and direction were all very well done, although I would've dug a more complex story. It was bad as hell to see Donnie Yen play Wong Kai-Ying, he gave the character the appropriate level of stoic badassness so lacking in the typical portrayel of him ( Drunken Master or Challenge of the Masters, for example) People tend to forget that he was one of the "10 Tigers of Canton", and as as such was as formidable as his son, if not more so.
Yuen proves himself more than worthy behind the camera, with some neat pacing techniques and good use of humor. Another positive aspect was that this film could pass for being made in the last few years as opposed to a decade ago, unlike so many early 90's HK flicks. It is slick in look and well-choreographed, to say nothing of the magnificently orchestrated final fight sequence. 10/10

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/25/2003
Summary: Average

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I never found this interesting at all. In fact, it's plain boring. The mid 90's was the rule of these Wong Fei Hung (and related!) movies, which all offer the same thing. See Once Upon A Time In China instead.


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/23/2002
Summary: The total package. Buy

This film is very similar to Crouching Tiger in style, but a kind of shorter, comic version with more elaborate fights. It's just overall very good and I would highly recommend the HKL DVD. Top stuff.

Reviewed by: kurama_tengu
Date: 06/03/2002
Summary: A quintessential film for anyone's top list.

I have read many an article and read many reviews. Those who enjoy martial arts cinema(not the Siskel/Ebert types)usually have three films on their "Top 3 List": in no particular order, "Drunken Master II", "Fist of Legend", and "Iron Monkey". I am no exception to this trend, as "Iron Monkey" sits at the top of my list, followed by "DM II", and "Fist of Legend". This Yuen Wo-Ping/Tsui Hark collaboration is one of the finest action films ever made. Donnie Yen shines as Wong Kay-Ying, father of legendary cinematic character Wong Fei-Hung. With his good looks and English speaking capability, it's a mystery why some US producer has not utilized him better for productions in the states.

You can read the other reviews for the story line. I will say that I have seen four different versions of this film. I highly recommend the Hong Kong version, which is uncut when compared to the US release that is available at every Tower Records or Suncoast Video. This version, released by Mega Star, is hard to find, since Disney/Miramax/Dimension owns the US distribution rights to this movie. Both the English-subtitled and English-dubbed versions on the Mega Star DVD differ than that of its Disney counterpart. Purists will want the Mega Star version despite the fact that the picture quality is better on the Disney versions.

This movie is a perfect introduction to Hong Kong martial arts cinema to those not familiar with the genre. Like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", unfamiliar viewers will have to get used to the high-flying or the Chinese humor, but "Iron Monkey" is a most entertaining 86 minutes of fun, action and laughs!! [10/10]

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Tatus
Date: 04/06/2002
Summary: Fun-Fu!!

Well what can i say - the stunts are amazing and crazy, the humour is pretty good (especially when drunk - but thankfully not nessecary)-maybe a few too many cheesy lines, fight scenes are well structured - an all round good blast!!
well worth a couple of viewings and a special drunken with the boys viewing!
(the hong kong legends version)

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/19/2002
Summary: One of Yuen Woo Ping's best

Iron Monkey sets the standards for well-made martial arts movies of the 90s, with perfect choreography, earthshaking action, a well-told story, helpful comedy and great acting. A timeless classic that I never get tired of watching.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: 5elementninja
Date: 12/30/2001
Summary: Overrated but still a nice movie

Iron Monkey is the kung fu Robin Hood who robs the rich and gives to the poor townspeople who are stricken with plague. This is a phenominal display of martial arts with tons of high flying action. Donnie Yen is spectacular as the legendary Wong Kei Ying who allies Iron Monkey.

The martial arts in this movie are absolutely spectacular especially from Donnie Yen. His "Shadowless Kick" is possibly some of the best footwork I've seen from any martial artist in recent times. But I still say this movie is EXTREMELY overrated. The storyline is extremely simple, the acting is subpar at best and I didn't think the humor was executed well at all. But all in all the fighting is definitely what makes this movie a stand out.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: DrunkenMonkey
Date: 12/12/2001
Summary: As Good as Martial Arts Can Go

Are you insulting my monkey?
No, this film is NOT about an iron monkey. This wonderful film, directed by "Drunken Master"'s Yuen Woo Ping, has Rongguang Yu as the Iron Monkey, a Chinese Robin Hood, with Donnie Yen as Wong Kay-Ying, the father of Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan in the "Drunken Master" films and Jet Li in various films). Great, the ultimate Hong Kong extravaganza. In a way, similar to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". This is the official prequel to the "Once Upon a Time in China" series.

Reviewed by: Magical Rice
Date: 07/07/2001
Summary: "Groovy"

Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD 2, DARKMAN, SPIDER-MAN) fans will absolutely LOVE this movie.

Yuen Wo Ping (the director) is the same guy that choreographed The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Somehow, this movie manages to take BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, DARKMAN (the cinematic style is emulated in this film), CROUCHING TIGER/HIDDEN DRAGON and ROBIN HOOD and wraps them up all in to two hours of really cool film-making.

The story is good, maybe not the best, but it sure as heck works for the style of movie that this is.

Think of it as a dark manga (comic book)/anime turned in to a feature film.

I suggest that, if you're new to martial arts flics, that you find this movie either on VHS and DVD and just buy it (it hard to find a place that rents it - and you'll probably want to own it after anyway). It'll be a great addition to your kung-fu/action collection!

I give this movie an enthusiastic 8.5 out of 10.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/18/2001
Summary: I know why this didn't do so well in the cinemas

When i watched this, i had high expectations since everyone raved about it!!
OK, it is good, but not great!!
The action is good and the storyline ain't that bad, but i felt unfullied when i finished watching this.
I think i expected more!!
Watch this if you get the chance!!


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 08/30/2000
Summary: Don't laugh at the title

I did the first time I saw this movie. Cos you know....Monkeys are always funny. This movie kicked ass though

Donnie Yen is a ninja-like, wire-fu Robin Hood of Ancient China, the Iron Monkey. Iron Monkey, accompanied by a young (female?!) Wong Fei-Hung, fights against an evil monk with one hell of a pimp-slap. So much so that you'll need to leech the poison out of the palm-shaped bruise on wherever he hit you!

Some amazing wire-fu choreography by the man, the myth, the legend, Yuen Woo-Ping. I love those wide panning shots so damn much.

Reviewed by: Ash
Date: 02/18/2000
Summary: One of the greatest kung fu movie of the 90'S!!

Iron Monkey, along with Drunken Master II, is one of the best kung fu movie of the 90's. The fight choreography is exquisitely done with a good use of the wires that enhances the fights. All the actors are great, the story is cool and the climactic fight is unbelievable!! A MUST SEE!!! 10/10

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/27/1999
Summary: Good Yuen Wo-ping effort.....

Tsui Hark produced this Yuen Woo-ping martial arts adventure depicting the exploits of a Chinese Robin Hood known as the Iron Monkey. Here, Wong Key-ying, played by Donnie Yen, is assigned by the government to take down the Iron Monkey, but not before collaborating with his intended target in order to take down the government themselves. Acclaimed by enthusiasts as the definitive modern martial arts movie, this film contains excellent wire fu choreography by Yuen Woo-ping, star turns by Donnie Yen and Yu Rong-guang, and some decent, if not annoying, slapstick humor. Recommended to anyone in need of a good, old fashioned wire fu movie.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Great flying people action. A really good prequel to Once Upon a Time in China. (There is also an older, totally different film of the same title starring Chan Goon Tai - No more info on that film.) Note that young Wong Fey Hung is played by a girl.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Where else would you get moves called "No Shadow Kick" and "Flying Sleeves?" Lots of flying people, great kung fu scenes, a cool story, and some cinematography that puts most of Hollywood to shame.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

A smart, fast prequel to the Once Upon A Time in Chinaseries. A local doctor (Yu Rong-Guang), known for his wisdom and philanthropy, is by night the Iron Monkey -- a hooded kung-fu Robin Hood beloved by the townsfolk. A visiting monk accepts the hospitality of the doctor, but not before having been blackmailed by corrupt town officials into capturing the Iron Monkey. A series of dazzling martial arts sequences is climaxed by an aerial fight on wooden poles over a fiery pit!


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 8