There is a feeling that some folks would look at a movie such as Iron Monkey and dismiss it as another martial arts movie that doesn’t do much more than showcase the martial talents of a few individuals while making it clear that two or three characters in the movie are all types of awesome while everyone else is good but not good enough. Or some might think that it’s bound to be a lot of unrealistic action that takes away from the hard-hitting realism that has been placed into other movies. The best response to all of that is an amused laugh since the truth is that Iron Monkey is in fact another action movie in which a lot of the participants are badass fighters that could easily taken down an average individual, while the top -tier fighters are those that affect an attitude of not wanting to fight since they know what could happen. As an action movie, Iron Monkey is great since it shows great scenes with plenty of impressive moves and camera work, but it also delves into a bit drama in order to try and balance things out.
Filmed in the 90s, this movie takes on the expected look of something that one would think is going to be all hard-hitting action with dramatic scenes that get a bit sappy and even cringe-worthy since a lot of movies in the 90s were all about the cringe-worthy drama that some folks loved and others found uncomfortable. In fact, some of the moments in which the drama unfolds are kind of hard to fully understand unless one has experience in these types of movies from which to work with. In other words, it would be wise to watch a few different martial arts movies before watching this one just so the names of the characters might ring with a bit of familiarity.
But in terms of this movie being a great action flick, this is easy to say since it gives plenty of great fight scenes that are fun to watch and, while not entirely realistic in a lot of ways, are able to remind one of the great martial arts movies that came a decade or two before this feature. Plus, the short bit of history that the movie delves into and the workings of government that give it at least a little bit of structure are nice since it’s less like the old west and more like a well-ordered system that’s been darkened by the corruption that’s taken over the system that was put into place. Plus, the ‘Robin Hood’ feel of this movie is great since it paints the main character in a light that’s not entirely benevolent or even entirely fair, but is someone doing what they can to help everyone while reminding those that have more than others that to keep things running that they do need to loosen their grip on their fortune now and again. The Iron Monkey is a character that isn’t truly out to rob the rich blind, but instead seeks to care for those that have little to nothing in his town and could use a bit of assistance. There’s a fine line there for certain that people would line up on in order to argue this point further, but the plot for the movie does make for a good story that can keep a person thinking about the morality of the story versus the practicality.
There are a few over the top villains as well, including a goofy, dim-witted governor and a bumbling chief of security, the latter who is actually a decent person but not all that bright at times. The removal of the governor by a former monk that’s become a government official is kind of satisfying until one realizes that the new individual that assumes control of the city is even worse. But this is where the plot thickens as the official is someone that both the Iron Monkey and Wong Kei-ying, know quite well since the official betrayed their order and as such is someone they’ve sworn to eliminate if they have the chance. The final fight between the two men and the new governor is intense, but the fight between the governor’s subordinates and Iron Monkey, and Wong Kei-ying, is kind of amusing since as tough as the governor is, his subordinates are like children to the two protagonists. At the end of the day this movie is all about the action and less about the drama, which makes it stand out as the type of movie that action-buffs would enjoy since nothing is so over the top as to be unacceptable garbage. Even the dramatic moments are nice since they provide a needed break now and then for a movie that might leave a lot of people wanting more by the end.