Hong Kong Cinema

Iron Monkey

  • Made: 1993
  • Region: 2
  • Format: DVD
  • Release Date: 26/03/2001
  • Company: Hong Kong Legends
  • Length: 86 minutes
  • Picture: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Extras: Trailers, Biography, Dual Language, 5.1 Dolby, Interviews
  • Classification: 12


Yuen Woo Ping


Yu Rong Guang, Donnie Yen, Chang Si Man, Yen Shi-Kwan, Jean Gang, James Wong



One of Yuen Woo Ping's most acclaimed works, Iron Monkey, is a clear indication of a how exciting, innovative and enjoyable Hong Kong Cinema can be. Iron Monkey took HK $7m during its run in 1993 and stars one of the 90's most exciting performers; Donnie Yen. This film can be clearly plotted in terms of action from old school classics such as Drunken Master and Buddhist Fist, up to his most internationally recognised work Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (CTHD).

The use of elaborate sets and the utilisation of wires makes Iron Monkey visually spectacular. This film is what CTHD should have been. One cannot ignore the similarity, from the running across the roof tops at night, or the reserved and reflective nature of the leads (Chow Yun Fat and Yu Rong Guang). It is also worth noting that whilst this is considered a Donnie Yen film, the main character, i.e. the Iron Monkey, is played brilliantly by Yu Rong Guang (Shanghai Noon), who at the time had done few memorable films in his short career. Contrast this with Donnie, who had first liaised with Yuen on the classic Drunken Tai Chi back in 1984, plus he also later teamed up again with Michelle Yeoh to make Wing Chun (1994).

In fact, Iron Monkey was made on the back of Donnie playing 3 consecutive roles as the bad guy (Once Upon a Time in China II, Dragon Inn and Tai Chi Master - again by Yuen Woo Ping!). The only forces in HK cinema that really could parallel Donnie at this point were Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, and arguably Yuen's only equivalent was Tsui Hark (who he fell out with in the late eighties over Better Tomorrow III). But I digress! I don't want to mention this film anymore in this review, but... if you liked the action in CTHD, you will love this film, Donnie Yen and co. can do the real deal, unlike Chow Yun Fat's rather lacklustre offering.



Wong takes on the Iron Monkey

Wong Fei-Hung using an umbrella - how inspired!!


A balanced act


I shall not languish on the plot, but it is quite entertaining and neither too simple, nor too complex. It helps the action, and creates a nice and fluid flow to the movie. Essentially the Iron Monkey steals from the rich governor and gives to the poor. Therefore the Governor tries to catch the Iron Monkey, rounding up everyone in town who is linked to monkeys. This include Wong Kai-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his son, the legendary Wong Fei Hung (Chang Si Man). The kid who plays Wong in this movie is actually a girl and the skills she displays are truly impressive at times.

As Kai-Ying is brought into custody, he is told he must capture the Iron Monkey if he wants them to release his son, Wong. This leads to the two main good guys being pitted against each other, but fortunately the film does not dwell on this dilemma for too long and is far more interested in dazzling the audience with some wonderful Kung Fu sequences. From this point we are treated with encounters in which the Governor's guards, along with Kai-Ying, try to catch the Iron Monkey. A disgraced Monk, played by Yen Shi-Kwan ('Iron Robe Yim' from Once Upon A Time in China), also joins in, using the deadly Wonder Palm technique. Eventually, after Kai-Ying sees that the Iron Monkey is good, he helps him defeat the Wonder Palm Monk and the Governor's guards with the help of Wong and Orchid (Jean Gang). There is also a healthy helping of comedy in this film, which adds to the lighthearted atmosphere of this high flying blockbuster.


The camera work and choreography are truly exceptional in this film, the fight scenes are inspired, hectic and very original. Indeed the end fight on the poles, which have been set alight, could well have been a progression from Yuen's flaming rope dart in the Buddhist Fist 14 years earlier. As mentioned before, this is a wire Kung Fu film, and there is a lot of big leaps and flying kicks.

What possibly detracts from the movie is that sometimes the undercranking is excessive and the action looks too fast! Overall the fighting is seminal and in many instances is yet to be bettered. Everyone performs to their potential and Donnie really shines, especially midway through when he takes on the witch with a barrage of explosive kicks.


Iron Monkey fights the Witch


The Wonder Palm monk has a fiery temper




This HKL disc is one of the earlier offerings, but is again of superb quality. It has been cropped to an anamorphic 16:9 print, which is a shame. But, the print is excellent and it is in dual language, which makes it ideal for both the hard core fan and the newly acquainted. It has interviews, trailers and biographies as well, which help make the disc a very slick package. It is quite possibly the best presented HKL disc, with a really nice feel to the artwork and intro atmosphere.


This is definitely in the Top 10 films of the 1990's, and would certainly be in many people's all time Top 10. I personally believe Donnie has not done a better work than this, and Yuen Woo Ping develops the ideas he had 15 years ago, but now with the effects, cast and budget required for them. The influence of this film is far reaching, and is held in high regard by most discerning Kung Fu fans. This is very close to being a faultless exposition of wire Kung Fu at its best, and will always be one of the finest movies in my HK collection.




Donnie finds it too hot to handle