Siu Nin Wong Fei Hung Chi: Tit Ma Lau [Iron Monkey] (1993)

(In theaters, October 2001) Martial Arts fans better stand up and cheer for Iron Monkey, one of the most impressive action film I’ve seen so far. The story is simple but not quite simplistic, with characters you can like and a handful of cool scenes that aren’t about fighting. (Watch for the flying paper dance and a cooking demonstration.) Iron Monkey is a contender with Fist Of Legend and Drunken Master II as a kung-fu must-see: while its ratio of set-pieces might be lower, it’s a better-paced film with a good distribution of fights. The end fight alone is an anthology piece, with three fighters balanced on bamboo poles atop a lake of burning fuel, with all the expected complications. It’s a blast, as is most of the film with its often-unsubtle humor. Good great fun, worth picking up on DVD.

(Second viewing, On DVD, January 2003) Goodness, I so do love this film. Action-packed without being excessively violent, sustained without being repetitive, this martial arts film stands as one of the best entries of its genre. The American re-release of the film presents better editing, good sub-titling and a cleaned-up image. As for the story itself, well, it’s a mix of comedy and action, of painless historical drama and underdog philosophy. Simple but not stupid, Iron Monkey is truly unleashed during its fantastic action sequences, which manage to be distinct and frequently awe-inspiring. Don’t miss two non-violent demonstrations of martial arts. It’s an enormously sympathetic film, certainly one of the best Hong Kong martial arts film. Don’t miss it.

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