Kung fu movies are slowly becoming more prominent in the United States. Jackie Chan has become the first highly successful Chinese martial arts expert in America. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon awed audiences with its epic grandeur and fantasy-like action scenes. More are more people are enjoying these kinds of movies, but is America ready for Iron Monkey, a purposely cheesy, spoof-like mockery of the more serious action films? I don't think so.
As I put Iron Monkey into my DVD player, I had only heard one thing about the movie, that it had some of the best action sequences ever. That was enough to make me excited. I was prepared for some hard core kung fu fighting; what I wasn't prepared for was a slightly-silly onslaught of moves for an hour and a half that make fun of some of the other kung fu films while still trying to be exciting and action-packed. At least I think that is what Iron Monkey was trying to do.
Despite the title, I was expecting something a little more serious. I definitely do not mind comedy mixed in with action, as I do enjoy Jackie Chan movies more than any other, but it is a whole another matter when the action itself is cheesy. Iron Monkey has tons of action, and the actors are very talented, but the fighting looks like a cheesy rendition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mixed with computer graphics and fast motion cuts. It is not that the fighting is bad, necessarily, but the supernatural movements of the fighters didn't excite me too much, for a couple of reasons. One, for the most part it is a lot more fun to watch a fight sequence where the fighters are actually showing off their skills without any help from wires or special effects. Iron Monkey has some clean cut action, but not much. Second, where the jumping from roof to roof thing worked in Crouching Tiger because the movie was more fantasy-based, it does not work here, because I never caught on as to why these people were able to do such amazing "stunts." Lastly, the fighting scenes just weren't as suspenseful since they had a comical flare to them, as exemplified in the climax, where the good guys take on the bad guy while standing on a bunch of poles over fire. Puh-lease.
Yes, some people will like Iron Monkey for its nonstop action, even if it is trying to be goofy. I probably didn't like it because I was expecting something else, but I really don't think I would have liked it anyway. It's not a poorly-done film; just a movie that still doesn't work in the United States.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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