Iron Monkey was first released in China in 1993 to minimal fanfare, but did fine. It was eventually picked up eight years later by that fat bastard Harvey Weinstein and his company Miramax who besides being a rapist he is also known for butchering filmmaker’s work. Iron Monkey would be one of his most notorious examples: nevertheless, it got a big release in the US and even got the seal of approval from Quentin Tarantino, who “presented” the film.
The film is about this masked Robin Hood type of Ninja known as the Iron Monkey, who is wanted by the corrupt authorities but loved by the poor. The doctor father of the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung is hired to hunt him down, but eventually they team up to fight a new Shaolin monk who takes over as the governor. The character of Wong Fei-hung is best known to western audiences as the protagonist of those Once Upon a Time in China movies that made Jet Li an international name, but Iron Monkey is not a part of the official series, and there were plenty of knock-offs after the original’s success.
Weinstein looked at the film and basically removed all the social-political content (which wasn’t a huge amount), re-scored it, retitled the film, and commissioned a terrible subtitle translation (it is truly horrendous from all accounts), although you could just see the dubbed version. He mainly bought it because Tarantino was a fanatical fan, but also saw it as a way to exploit the shock success of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger, which this film is vastly different from. Luckily, Eureka’s version is the original film, even though the native Cantonese dubbing left a lot to be desired in the first place, as is common.
For the most part, the film itself is rollicking martial arts extravaganza, with excellent fight scenes by the choreographer/director Yuen Woo-Ping, who is the man who made Jackie Chan a massive star in China back in the late ’70s. Western audiences will recognise Donnie Yen, who plays the doctor, because he had a sizable supporting role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Chirrut Îmwe.
The disc includes a bunch of interviews with the cast and crew, and a couple more featurettes on the choreography. The trailer is included, and in the first print there is a booklet with new writing on the film.