I recently watched one of my favorite martial arts films of all time, Iron Monkey, with my kids. I’ve been a fan of this movie ever since I first watched it on VHS nearly twenty years ago, and its blend of slapstick humor and wild martial arts choreography — courtesy of director Yuen Woo-Ping (who also choreographed the Matrix trilogy, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the Kill Bill films, to name a few) — never ceases to put a smile on my face.
Indeed, a film like Iron Monkey makes you realize that few things are as delightful to watch as a well-choreographed martial arts movie. If nothing else, it makes you realize how frequently chaotic and confusing modern movie action sequences are. If you have truly talented onscreen combatants — which Iron Monkey did, thanks to Donnie Yen, Yu Rong-kwong, and Angie Tsang — you don’t have to compensate with crazy, over-the-top editing, which has the illusion of intensity but usually just ends up obscuring the action and muddling the film in question. While it’s true that Yuen Woo-Ping frequently utilized tricks like undercranking and wire-work throughout Iron Monkey, he used them really well and in a way that emphasized (and didn’t obscure) the talents of his actors and stunt crew.
Iron Monkey was released here in the States back in 2001 by Miramax, who — as they did with many films — made a number of changes to it (e.g., removing historical references, toning down the violence and comedy, replacing the soundtrack with a more serious one), supposedly to make the film more palatable for American audiences.
However, the resulting film lacked much of the silly, campy joy that made Iron Monkey’s story — in which a Robin Hood-like figure battles corrupt government officials — so much fun in the first place. It felt like Miramax was more interested in trying to present Iron Monkey as a serious arthouse film à la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which had received so much acclaim the year before, then be faithful to the spirit of Yuen Woo-Ping’s film.
So imagine my delight in discovering that Iron Monkey is getting a deluxe release on June 18, 2018 courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. I don’t usually pay attention to special features these days — mainly because I don’t have the time I once did to dive into them (I still haven’t finished watching all of the special features for The Force Awakens) — but as a long-time Iron Monkey fan, the following do have me excited:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the film
- Original Cantonese mono audio track (also available in 5.1 presentation)
- 5.1 English audio track
- Isolated music and effects track
- Interview with Donnie Yen (20 mins)
- Interview with producer Tsui Hark (25 mins)
- Interview with Yu Rong-kwong (27 mins)
- Interview with stuntwoman and actress Li Fai (25 mins)
- Interview with actress Angie Tsang (20 mins)
- “Iron Fist” (16 mins) - A behind-the-scenes look at the action choreography of Iron Monkey
- “Shadow Boxing” (8 mins) - A featurette on Hong Kong action choreography featuring Alex Yip
- Footage of Li Fai and Angie Tsang competing at the 2003 Wu Shu Championships
- Original theatrical trailer
- First run only: Limited edition O-card and collector’s booklet featuring a new essay on the film
I’m particularly intrigued by the interviews with Yu Rong-kwong (who played the titular hero) and Angie Tsang (who played a young Wong Fei-Hong). Yu Rong-kwong has starred in a number of excellent movies (e.g., Iron Monkey, Musa, My Father Is a Hero) and is always an interesting on-screen presence, but it seems like he’s never really received the attention that his fellow martial arts actors have. As for Tsang, she left acting shortly after her debut in Iron Monkey to become a real-life martial arts champion.
And though I usually prefer to watch Asian movies subtitled, I’ve always made an exception for Iron Monkey; its ridiculous, over-the-top English dub feels way more appropriate to its tone. If the above trailer is any indication, Eureka’s release features that same dub, which is also used on the Tai Seng DVD that I own, rather than Miramax’s more toned down dub.
There’s a catch, though: Eureka’s Iron Monkey release will apparently be a Region B/2 release. This isn’t that big of a deal, though, because workarounds exist for turning your Blu-ray player into a multi-region player and/or playing discs from other regions in your player (just do a quick Google search for “multi-region Blu-ray” or something similar). And any workaround strikes me as a no-brainer if it means getting to watch a true cult classic like Iron Monkey in the best possible way.