Iron Monkey (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
September 10, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“‘Iron Monkey’ gets its Blu-ray release and is much better than its original 2002 Miramax DVD counterpart. But unfortunately, for fans who have been waiting and have wondered if this is the uncut/unedited version, it’s not. Also, the English dub is featured in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio but the original Chinese is only presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.”
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TITLE: Iron Monkey
DURATION: 86 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-bit), Original Chinese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, English SDH and Spanish
COMPANY: Miramax Films
RATED: PG-13 (for Martial Arts Action/Violence and Brief Sexuality)
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Directed by Woo-ping Yuen
Written by Tai-Muk Lau, Cheung Tan, Pik-yin Tang, Hark Tsui
Produced by Hark Tsui and Quentin Tarentino
Music by Richard Yuen
Cinematography by Arthur Wong
Edited by Chi Wai Chan, Angie Lam
Production Design by Ringo Cheung
Rongguang Yu as Iron Monkey/Dr. Yang
Donnie Yen as Wong Kei-Ying
Jean Wang as Miss Orchid
Shi-Kwan Yen as Hiu Hing
James Wong as Governor Cheng
Hou Hisao as Disfigured woman
Sze-Man Tsang as Wong Fei-Hung
Shun-Yee Yen as Master Fox
Fai Li as Witch
Rediscover the high-flying Kung-Fu thrills of Iron Monkey, now in glorious Blu-ray! The all new high definition version of the exhilarating action adventure features explosively vivid picture and sound, plus exciting interviews with avowed Kung-Fu cinema fan Quentin Tarantino, who discusses the genre’s influence on his career, and action star Donnie Yen (Blade II, Hero), who reveals the secrets of working
with legendary fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
In a desperate and unjust land, where government corruption rules the day, one man had the courage to challenge the system and fight back…his name was Iron Monkey. Presented by Quentin Tarantino, Iron Monkey was directed by famed action choreographer Woo-ping Yuen, who helped create the now legendary action sequences of The Matrix to Kill Bill. Featuring the perfect mix of action, humor and
heart, Iron Monkey is a Kung-Fu classic that will dazzle anew on Blu-ray!
Full of action and wonderful fighting choreography,
A remake of the 1970’s film of the same name, the 1993 film “Iron Monkey” stars Rongugang Yu (“Musa the Warrior”, “Shanghai Noon”, “Midnight Express in Orient” as Dr. Yang a.k.a. “Iron Monkey”.
During a time when the poor were being mistreated by bandits, many tried to flock towards government officials for protection but finding mistreatment at a higher level as well. So, the “Iron Monkey” is like an equivalent of Robin Hood, steal from the rich and give back to the poor. But being the popular doctor in the village, no one suspects him of anything.
Dr. Yang works with Miss Orchid (Jean Wang, “Once Upon a Time in China” films, “Swordsman III”), a woman who is also an impressive fighter but is seen as the shopkeeper at Dr. Yang’s office.
But with a senator coming to visit the village, the current governor wants a search for Iron Monkey (who has stolen a lot of the governor’s savings) and has his men try to capture anyone who may be the one who has been stealing from them.
One day, a man named Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen, “Kill Zone”, “Shanghai Affairs”, “Hero”) and his son Wong Fei-Hung (Sze-Man Tsang) visit the village and make some purchases but when Wong Fei-Hung spots a child being bullied, he defends him by using a slingshot and shooting a rock at one of the bad juveniles. But when his father takes the slingshot away, the bad bullies suspect he is the culprit and the father easily beats them.
Because the governor’s men watched Wong Kei-Ying fight, they arrest both Wong Kei-Ying and his son.
While all men who were arrested try to plead to the governor that they are not Iron Monkey, the governor doesn’t care and wants to imprison all of them. But then the real Iron Monkey shows up and Wong Kei-Ying who wants to protect his son, gets into a fight with Iron Monkey and everyone is at awe at both men’s martial arts. The governor then cuts a deal with Wong Kei-Ying, if he catches the Iron Monkey, he will release his son to him. If not, his son will be in prison forever.
With Wong Kei-Ying knowing that all he has is his son, he will do what he can to catch the Iron Monkey. But he is quick to learn that the villagers are supportive of the Iron Monkey and will not feed him. Being broke and having no money and knowing he has a week to catch the Iron Monkey, unbeknown to him, Miss Orchid takes him into their home for food and both she and Dr. Yang learn that his son has been captured and learn that the only way they will be free is if the Iron Monkey is killed.
Knowing that Wong Kei-Ying is being wronged, Dr. Yang (ala Iron Monkey) and Miss Orchid do what they can to help him.
It’s important to not that Wong Kei-Ying’s son is the Wong Fei-hung that is a Kung Fu hero in China. The real man lived from 1847 through 1924 and was a master of the no-shadow kick, drunken boxing, the lion dance and Hung fist. The character has been explored in a number of films which include the Jet Li “Once Upon a Time in China” films and for Jackie Chan in the “Drunken Master” films
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Iron Monkey” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). For the most part, this 1993 film definitely looks better with the HD treatment than its 2002 DVD counterpart. The picture quality looks much clearer and compared to the 1994 “The Legend of Drunken Master” film that is coming out on Blu-ray, “Iron Monkey” has less scratches and dirt. For the most part, the film looks good, not great but good and better than DVD.
As for the audio, this is what will determine whether or not one will probably but it or not. “Iron Monkey” is provided in English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHZ/24-bit) lossless audio, while the original Chinese dialogue is only 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 2.0 digital. I’m not going to add flame to the fire of whether or not to call an English dub bad or not, especially since I’m biased towards the original language. But I also know there are many people who dislike reading films with subtitles and will put up with the English dialogue. So, with that being the case, the English dub is much clearer and there are some scenes that utilize the surround channels. But for the most part, the film features a lot of front and center channel usage with some thumps being heard on the surrounds. I didn’ t notice much LFE on the English dub either.
As for the original Chinese soundtrack, it is in 5.1 Dolby Digital but for the most part, at least with Blu-ray, you know that the 5.1 DD track is at a higher bitrate. But yes, too many people, not having a lossless audio soundtrack is a deal breaker.
And of course, the major deal breaker for many fans of “Iron Monkey” is that this is the edited version. Scenes were cut out, some fixed up but the most significant change audio-wise is the replacement of the music. Miramax wanted to capitalize on the popularity of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, so the music was changed to a classical score.
As for subtitles, the film is presented in English SDH and Spanish. And yes, the subtitles have been revised as well to eliminate the political context of the film.
“Iron Monkey” comes with two special features:
- Quentin Tarentino Interview – (9:35) Quentin Tarentino talks about his passion for Kung Fu films.
- Donnie Yen Interview – (6:21) Donnie Yen talks about how he got involved in martial arts and film.
“Iron Monkey” is an entertaining martial arts film filled with interesting characters and wonderful fighting choreography.
Personally, this was one of the more memorable fighting films that dominated the 80’s and early 90’s but the controversy lies on the cutting and editing of the films for the US release. Like “The Legend of Drunk Master”, this release is going to be loved or hated by fans.
Again, I want to make it clear that this film has its best looking transfer to date on Blu-ray and much better than the previous 2002 DVD. Picture quality is very good but not reference quality but for a 1993 film, it looks pretty good. But what it all comes down to is the viewer and what they want are expecting from this film.
For those who have a disdain towards watching films with English subtitles, you’re going to get a solid English dubbed soundtrack via its lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD audio. Fight scenes sound very good and although not an immersive soundtrack, it’s still quite solid. Again, I’m not going to debate if the English dubbing is good or bad because everyone has their own opinion on dubs and personally, I’m biased towards the films with its original language but at the same time, I know plenty of people who are unable to enjoy a film with subtitles and thus needs the English dub.
But for those who have been waiting for the uncut release, this is not it. The film has the edited scenes, revised subtitles and also the music change but at least the Chinese audio via Dolby Digital 5.1 was still included. It may not be lossless but I’m glad it was included (unlike “The Legend of Drunken Master” which doesn’t have it nor does it have the original ending scene) but still, with the revisions made, purists will not be satisfied and its understandable.
So, needless to say…it’s going to be a love or hate release among fans. As a fan of the film, one can either wait and hope that an import uncut release of the film makes it to Blu-ray. Or perhaps maybe purchasing this latest release with the better picture quality, better lossless audio than the original DVD.
But with that said, “Iron Monkey” is still an entertaining martial arts film that has an enjoyable storyline, enjoyable characters and awesome fight choreography. “Iron Monkey” one of my favorite Donnie Yen films but unfortunately, it’s not the uncut/unrevised version that I was hoping for. But again, if you enjoyed the original US DVD release and don’t mind the revisions, then this is the definitive version to own.
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