The best of the four most recently released "KUNG FU" titles released on blu-ray from BUENA VISTA, is "IRON MONKEY." Taking place in the 1800s, a father, Wong Kei Ying, and his son, Wong Fei Hong, move into a small town, and find the town-folk are ruled by harsh and corrupt government officials. Their one hope for safety lies in the "IRON MONKEY," a mysterious masked avenger, willing to use his lethal skills in defending the citizens. When the bad guys figure out that their initial assumption of Ying being the "IRON MONKEY" is wrong, they also acknowledge his superior fighting skills are needed to bring the Iron Monkey down, and kidnap his son as motivation to aid them in their nefarious scheme.
Sure, "IRON MONKEY" borrows liberally from some great westerns, as well as great Asian films, ("YOJIMBO" comes to mind) but it does so without ever being smug about it, and the emphasis of the narrative is clearly set to bridge great fight scenes, which are all fantastic! The film moves at a brisk pace, and what could easily have been nothing more than a film built on cliche's, ends up being thoroughly entertaining, instead!
The fight sequences are brilliantly staged, and while the characters lack any real depth, the success of the film lies in how easy it is to still care about them.
BUENA VISTA has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/ AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray release. Colors are often vibrant, and contrast features deep, although not "inky" blacks, retaining impressive detail in darker scenes. While there are a fair share of flat moments, due to some sporadic softness, most of the film displays great depth. This is certainly not even close to reference material, but it's notably better than its dvd counterpart in scene-to-scene comparisons, and generally looks pretty good!
BUENA VISTA has again continued the questionable practice of only offering the dubbed version in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, leaving the original Chinese language with only a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. While the actual dubbing is pretty dismal, at least the mix is aggressive, offering aggressive discrete, bass and panning effects. The original language version, even with noticeably limited dynamic range, is preferred.
Extras include a short interview with Donny Yen, star of the film, which is surprisingly quite good, and a featurette with Quentin Tarantino discussing the differences between American and Chinese audiences along with his impression of the film.