The success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has opened the door for another spectacular martial-arts extravaganza from Hong Kong's crazy Yuen filmmaking family.
By GRADY HENDRIX
We all knew it was going to happen, and here it comes: the studio indies have glommed onto back-catalog flicks from Hong Kong hoping to clean up at the box office a la Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Fans regard "Iron Monkey" as one of Yuen Woo-ping's finest directorial efforts and, ever since his action choreography on "The Matrix" and "CT, HD," he's been regarded as something of an insurance policy by nervous studio execs but some sharpie (probably Quentin Tarantino, whose name is all over the re-release credits) convinced Miramax to give it a highbrow "Crouching Tiger, Masterpiece Theater" theatrical re-release.
They don't even know what they've done.
|Original title: Siunin Wong Fei-hung Tsi Titmalau.|
Directed by: Yuen Woo-ping.
Written by: Lau Tai-Muk, Tan Cheung, Tang Pik-yin, Tsui Hark.
Cast: Donnie Yen, Yu Rongguang, Jean Wang, Yee Yan Kwan, James
Wong, Hsiao Hou, Tsang Sze-Man, Yam Sai-kun, Yuen Shun-Yee, Li Fai.
In Cantonese with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site
Because lurking behind Yuen Woo-ping is an entire family of Yuens and they're all insane. Ang Lee was onto something when he realized that the more louche tendencies of Hong Kong cinema needed to be excised in order for Western audiences to be seen buying a ticket. But where Ang Lee's movie is a throwback to the genteel Mandarin swordplay epics of the '70s, Yuen Woo-ping is part of the throbbing, fecund, liquid-slimed Cantonese tradition of the '80s with his electrifying celluloid acid trips. Unafraid to roll around in the muck, his imagery (and that of producer/demigod Tsui Hark) come from some deep and hidden region of the brain, dredged up from the collective unconscious of a freaky alien race. Images from "Iron Monkey" flicker in your head like black candle flames: a monk grinning through a mouthful of dripping blood; a virgin nun assassin with a scaly, purple birthmark the size of a pie on her face. This is the stuff of Republic serials reimagined by Artaud, Dali's secret Kung fu screenplay, automatic writing as a directorial process. Here the distance between the Yuen clan's collective unconscious and the multiplex screen has been totally eliminated.
Hong Kong is a factory of frenzy; it is to movies what precision German engineering is to BMW. "Iron Monkey" is that factory working full steam ahead. Quite in spite of themselves, Miramax has given the world the most entertaining movie of the year. Fired up on pulp, "Iron Monkey" is a sleek, mean martial arts movie machine. Where "CT, HD" was earnest and downbeat, "Iron Monkey" is ebullient and ecstatic. In a hick urban backwater the local Governor is splitting his time between playing "hide the abalone" with his nine wives and hunting down masked Robin Hood type, the Iron Monkey. A righteous guy who fights corruption and injustice with his assistant, Miss Orchid, Iron Monkey is actually Dr. Yang, a righteous guy who practices traditional medicine with his assistant, Miss Orchid. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor brings these two closer together, but with the impending arrival of an envoy from the Emperor sent to find out what's up with this so-called Iron Monkey, the governor's feeling the heat. Into all this walks bug-eyed martial artist Donnie Yen, playing Wong Kei-ying the father of legendary Chinese hero (and perennial Jet Li role) Wong Fei-hung. With him is young Wong, himself (played b
|OCTOBER 20, 2001|
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