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Iron Monkey (Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau) - Blu-ray DVD / action adventure DVD / international and foreign language DVD review
IRON MONKEY (Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau) Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Rongguang Yu, Jean Wang, Donnie Yen, Sze-Man Tsang, James Wong, Shi-Kwan Yen
Director: Woo-ping Yuen Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 15 September 2009 Runtime: 86 min.
(1 disc)
Format: Color, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - Original Chinese; Dolby Digital 2.0 - Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), Quentin Tarantino interview, Donnie Yen interview

Mexico has Zorro, Great Britain has Robin Hood; China has Iron Monkey.

In a time when China was suffering under a depression, the citizens would come to larger cities to get food and hopefully improve their fortunes. Unfortunately, local officials were all too willing to take advantage of the peasants to benefit themselves. The fabled Shaolin monks had become dishonorable and held positions in the government. The Iron Monkey would bravely leap in, take food and money from the government, and redistribute it to those in need.

During daylight hours, Iron Monkey holds a position of esteem in the community. He is Dr. Yang (Rongguang Yu). He operates his clinic in much the same way that Iron Monkey works: those in need who can't afford it get treatment for free, those who can afford to will pay as they should. At his side is Miss Orchid (Jean Wang), a young woman whom Yang saved from a cruel pimp. Yang has trained her in his excellent Kung Fu, and she is nearly as skilled as he. Together they deal with the injustice in their community a little at a time.

Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen) and his son Wong Fei-Hung (Sze-Man Tsang) come to town at just the wrong time to do some business. Local authorities are rounding up everyone they can in hopes of putting Iron Monkey behind bars before Governor Cheng (James Wong) arrives for a visit. Kei-Ying and Fei-Hung are taken into custody, but Kei-Yang offers his valuable services (he's a well-known Kung Fu master) to catch the real Monkey. The corrupt official agrees to this on the condition that they keep Fei-Hung in jail as collateral.

Wong Kei-Ying and Dr. Yang become friends quickly but do battle as Wong Kei-Ying and Iron Monkey. The stage is set. You can imagine how it might play out in broad strokes, but you can't imagine the fantastic Kung Fu action. This is the kind of stuff I used to love about 1970's Kung Fu films, but made for modern audiences and more tied to the physics of the real world. Director Woo-Ping Yuen, who was in charge of the martial arts action in the Matrix films and Kill Bill and 2, is a legend in the Hong Kong film industry - and Iron Monkey is one of his best. Donnie Yen and Rongguang Yu are fun to watch fighting, but young See-Man Tsang almost steals the show. She plays Wong Fei- Hung, a real-life Chinese hero born in 1847. Wong Fei-Hung is smart, and his Kung Fu is not easily bested.

The Blu-ray edition of this 1993 film is beautiful, the sound is great, but the picture is what you're really looking for. What I find unfortunate about some of the recent Miramax martial arts films is when you freeze-frame, a picture-in-picture box comes up to show a visual representing what chapter you're in. If you want to step through frame by frame to fully appreciate the choreography, the picture is obscured. Aside from that, I can't say enough about Iron Monkey.

Iron Monkey is also newly available in a box set with three other contemporary martial arts on Blu-ray: The Legend of Drunken Master, Zatoichi, and Hero.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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