(director: Yuen Woo- Ping; screenwriters: Tsui Hark/Elsa Tang/Lau Tai Mok; cinematographer: Arthur Wong; editors: Chi Wai Chan/Angie Lam; music: Richard Yuen; cast: Donnie Yen (Wong Kei-Ying), Yu Rong-gwong (Dr. Yang/Iron Monkey), Jean Wang (Miss Orchid), Yee Kwan Yan (Hiu Hing), James Wong (Governor Cheng), Tsang Sze-man (Young Wong Fei-Hung), Shun-Yee Yuen (Master Fox); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Quentin Tarantino/Hark Tsui; Miramax Films; 1993-Hong Kong-in Cantonese with English subtitles)
“Some of the best fight sequences one can expect to see in this genre.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Yuen Woo Ping (“Drunken Master”/”The T’ai Chi Master”/”Wing Chun”), the fight choreographer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, helms this kung fu classic with wall-to-wall action. He serves it up in a steaming hot chop-gooey style with a Robin Hood tale and with some of the best fight sequences one can expect to see in this genre. The problem is that the story by screenwriters Tsui Hark, Elsa Tang and Lau Tai Mok is weak, the acting is dreadful and the conceits are shamelessly contrived. If you overlook all that, then the incredible high-flying fight sequences should win you over to its side (especially, the final duel, fought on burning poles).
The kindly Dr. Yang (Yu Rong Guang), a renown herbalist, and his beautiful assistant, Orchid (Jean Wang), treat the poor refugees, of their mid-19th century remote eastern province, without charge. Yang also doubles as the notorious wanted outlaw called the Iron Monkey who steals from the tyrannical and corrupt local governor (James Wong) to feed the peasants. Wong Kei Ying (Donnie Yen), a master of the Hung Gar style of kung fu, and his young son, Wong Fei Hung (Sze-Man Tsang), visit the rural province from their hometown of Canton and he’s arrested when he’s mistaken for the Iron Monkey (The little boy will grow up to be the legendary hero Wong Fei-hong, who will be featured in many later Hong Kong films). The greedy governor holds Wong’s son in prison, while Wong has seven days to arrest the Iron Monkey or else his son will be harmed. The people resent Wong’s mission to arrest their hero and he’s scorned, but he’s befriended by Dr. Yang and Orchid and soon learns his secret. The two heroic fighters then team up to put an end to the evil ruler.
REVIEWED ON 2/6/2008 GRADE: B-