'Ip Man' Review: Why You Need to Watch It If You're a Bruce Lee Fan
Ip Man 4 and the release of Master Z: Ip Man Legacy
I stumbled upon Ip Man the other day browsing through the Netflix library and discovered a new love. If you've never heard of him, I'm not surprised.
Ip Man is a franchise and one I have definitely overlooked in my selections when it comes to foreign films.
So far the franchise comprises of a trilogy. An Ip Man Legacy film has just finished filming and will screen at Busan Film Festival 13th October 2018. There will be an Ip Man 4 which commenced filming in 2018.
But first, let's look at the original film.
The original Ip Man released in 2008 and tells the story of master Ip Man, a teacher of Wing Chun.
It's director Wilson Yip wanted to develop a biographical movie based on the martial arts teacher and his life. What I didn't know when I started watching this was that Ip Man eventually goes on to meet and teach Bruce Lee. But more on that later.
What's the Story About?
Ip Man begins following a wealthy martial artist who lives in a large house, in Foshan. Foshan is famous for having various southern Chinese martial arts schools who compete against each other.
As the story takes place during the Japanese invasion in 1937, Ip Man is eventually forced out of his luxurious lifestyle. Instead he concedes to living in poverty with many others and conserving his energy by no longer fighting.
A Japanese General Karate master opens a fighting arena. He openly selects people from various workplaces to fight his military trainees for bags of rice. Of course like any story, this General is not the fairest of opponents and neither are his lackeys.
When one of Ip's friends fails to return from a fighting match, Ip Man discovers what's really going on. Ip challenges the soldiers to a fight and scores the attention of the General who is keen on seeing him fight some more.
After inadvertently finding himself in the midst of an extortion turf war, Ip Man teaches the employees under threat a bit of Wing Ching as self-defense.
Before long, the General decides he wants Ip Man to teach the Japanese soldiers. He refuses and instead challenges the General to a battle. Ip is told that he can live only if he lets the General win.
By the end of the movie, Ip Man is in a bad way. He flees Foshan for Hong Kong. Although the film ends abruptly, it just made me more eager to get to the second one.
How Good is the Film?
Donny Yen plays the role of Ip Man and he somehow exudes humility and virtue which pours out of him throughout his performance. A slight smirk suggests at times, he simply sees the world in a different way to most. Small gestures and intimate moments between his family, his friends and his opponents make him more and more likable each second the movie goes on.
Sometimes films that concern the epicenter of martial arts have endless and drawn out fight scenes. While Ip Man has plenty of them, there is a truly engaging story underpinning his journey. Add to that, the fighting scenes which are also great to watch.
I was on the edge of my seat following everything that happens. The narrative shows the struggle between Ip's inclination to rescue anyone and everything he values countered with a sometimes unconcerned aspect towards his family. While there is never any doubt that he adores both his wife and child, they often take a back seat to his personal and not so personal battles with the state of the world.
I have two young sons that I called in when I first began watching this film. There’s no swearing, and the violence barely shows and bloodshed in the first act. Within minutes they were pretending to do martial arts amidst exclamations of how cool it was. Ip Man's fighting techniques are amazing to watch and there are heaps of larger group fights that are orchestrated with precision and flair. Later in the film, there are a few scenes less suitable for a young audience however they are brief.
What's the Verdict?
I have read accounts that the story told in many of the Ip Man movies are not entirely historically accurate. Accounts of who specifically did what are not deal breakers for me. The story flows along like a well-oiled machine and was so great to watch I moved on the sequel a day later.
The film manages to show glimpses of so many underlying topics and issues around this time without becoming overindulged by any of them. It's neither a war movie, a drama film nor a fmovie about oppression and I think that's why it's so successful. First and foremost action takes s front seat and the action’s about as good as it gets. You get a glimpse of all these themes without having to dwell on them for long before another epic fight breaks out.
If you like this type of film and haven't seen it, I recommend you do so at your first opportunity. I guarantee it will become a fast favorite.
I give Ip Man 4.5 a cup of tea fixes everything out of 5
Quick Film Information
Released: China in December 2008 before screening at Fantasia Film Festival in 2009. A DVD premiere in Netherlands followed by a few other countries in 2010.
Starring: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Siu-Wong Fan
Director: Wilson Yip is famous for Juliet in Love (2000) with a film called Bio Zombie becoming a cult hit and being inspired by Dawn of the Dead.
Writers: Edmond Wong (screenplay) and Tai-lee Chan.
Studio: Mandarin Motion Pictures.
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