IRON MONKEY 2 (2020) short review

p2612185825It is not unusual to see four or five-hour long epics being shot in one go and split in two films, but a lean two-hour actioner being split in two barely feature-length films? That’s a novel idea indeed. And so two weeks after the VOD release of Yue Song’s 62-minute long Iron Monkey, came the 63-minute long Iron Monkey 2. It obviously picks up exactly where the first film abruptly left off: post-apocalyptic warrior Thunder (Yue Song) has rebelled against the leader (Chen Zhihui) of the cult-like warrior clan that adopted him at a young age, and fled with captive women who were destined for a grisly fate. The rest of the clan has been in hot pursuit, and Thunder already dispatched quite a few of them in the first film. Now, the rest of his former comrades are still hellbent on killing him for his treason, and a confrontation with the leader is inevitable. After the action-packed first film, this is a slightly more introspective affair, though whatever introspection happens, isn’t exactly profound. There’s a wealth of melodramatic flashbacks to Thunder’s upbringing, and quite a bit of speechifying about things like honor and loyalty. The fighting is still abundant, but less hard-hitting than in the first film: the two climactic fights are hampered by a montage-like editing that goes for emotional power rather than kinetic entertainment – unwise, as emotion is absent anyway. And Yue Song’s dead-serious sense of vanity grows wearisome: when he’s not doing push-ups, brooding, or beating up dozens of opponents, he’s in the rain screaming at the heavens (exactly like in Super Bodyguard). The release of Iron Monkey 2 was even accompanied a documentary about him and his life philosophy, directed by a member of his family and humbly titled Warrior. **

IRON MONKEY (2020) review

p2607367095Yue Song is a unique performer in China’s – and indeed the world’s – filmic landscape. A one-man army who writes, produces, directs, choreographs, plays the lead role and does his own stunts in his films, never taking a single role in anybody else’s project. As a result, his output has been sparse, with each of his films a passion project to which he devotes his mind and sacrifices his body with Jackie Chan-like abandon. After the relatively little-seen King of the Streets in 2012, his following film, Super Bodyguard (released as Iron Protector in the US), caused a bit more of a stir four years later with its entertaining mix of unironic, vanity-filled silliness and excellent, bone-crunching fights. Now it’s been another four years and Yue is back with Iron Monkey (no relation to the Yuen Woo Ping classic), released straight to VOD at a time when Chinese theaters haven’t re-opened yet.

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SUPER BODYGUARD (aka THE BODYGUARD, aka IRON PROTECTOR) (2016) review

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Brazenly declaring itself “the best martial arts film in the past 20 years”, the very same claim made by the director’s previous film, The King of the Streets, Yue Song’s Super Bodyguard follows Wu (Yue), a mysterious rambler who, having just arrived in the city of Lengcheng, both saves the life of wealthy businessman Li and reunites with his long lost friend Jiang (Shi Yanneng), who was raised by the same master but left for the city years ago, jealous and angry at not being taught the same ‘Way of the 108 Kicks’ as Wu. Now Jiang is the owner of a bodyguard agency, and he assigns Wu to protect Feifei (Li Yufei), the daughter of businessman Li. A spoiled brat, she’s initially reluctant to be followed around by the uncouth Wu, who wears 25-pound steel boots and thinks a wine’s vintage is its expiration date. But after he saves her from a kidnapping attempt, she warms to him and as the two go in hiding, feelings develop. Yet Wu’s past haunts him, and Jiang’s anger is still alive…

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