Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s look and action animated by a classic kung fu plot (in Cantonese with English subtitles) with moments of Jackie Chan-like comedy describes Iron Monkey in a litchi nutshell.
At its heart is its titular superhero. The Iron Monkey (Yu Rong Guang) is Robin Hood, Zorro and Batman wrapped up in a ninja uniform and possessing supernatural powers of movement and fighting skills. He robs and humiliates (sometimes comically) corrupt Gov. Cheng (James Wong) and gives Cheng’s gold back to those the governor and his warlord bosses have impoverished. His steely weapons of choice are fistfuls of large ball bearings, stars and a brilliantly flashing chain. Like the Caped Crusader, the Iron Monkey has a daytime alter ego, the compassionate master of Chinese medicine, Dr. Yang, and a sidekick, Miss Orchid (Jean Wang), her beauty only surpassed by her martial arts prowess.
A challenging kung fu master, Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen), comes to town with his son, Wong Fei-Hong (Tsang Sze Man), thickening the plot. But it will take both heroes to rid the land of its scourge, the demonic Royal Minister Hin Hung (Sai-kun Yam).
Let me correct myself: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) looks like Iron Monkey (Crouching Tiger’s action choreographer, Woo-ping Yuen — the kung fu choreographer of The Matrix — directed it), because this is a new theatrical release of a 1994 vintage kung fu classic. Heroes and villains fly and otherwise move with magical power and deftness, though the nearly Shakespearean romantic tragedy of Crouching Tiger has yet to displace Iron Monkey’s traditional melodrama.
But this isn’t an art house film — it’s a dazzling action feast for the eyes if not the brain. Take the Iron Monkey’s wry advice: “Don’t blink or you’ll miss the fun.”
Visit the official Iron Monkey Web site at www.iron-monkey.com.