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Ip Man (2008)
"Yip Man" (original title)

R  |   |  Action, Biography, Drama  |  12 December 2008 (China)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 146,841 users   Metascore: 59/100
Reviews: 140 user | 102 critic | 9 from Metacritic.com

A semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the successful martial arts master who taught the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun to the world.



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Credited cast:
Chow Ching-Chuen
Ka Tung Lam ...
Captain Lei Chiu
Jin Shan Zhao / Kam Shan-Chau
Cheung Wing-Sing
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi ...
Tenma Shibuya ...
Colonel Sato
Xing Yu ...
Master Zealot Lam
Zhi-Hui Chen ...
Master Liu
You-Nam Wong ...
Sa Dam Yun
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Rong-Jun Cai ...
Cotton Mill Worker
Li Chak ...
Yip Chun (as Li Ze)
Siu-Kwan Chan ...
Calvin Ka-Sing Cheng ...
Chow Kong-Yiu
Shi De-Qiang ...
Southern master


In 1935 in Foshan, south China, there are martial arts schools on every street corner. Ip Man is the undisputed martial arts champion, yet he has not devoted himself to teaching. Despite this, it seems that all the kung fu masters of the city are eager to fight him to improve their reputation. Written by Riccardo Amadori

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Mentor of iconic legend Bruce Lee See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

12 December 2008 (China)  »

Also Known As:

Ip Man  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ip Man's eldest son, Ip Chun, his student Leo Au-yeung, and Changquan gold medalist To Yu-hang served as technical consultants for the film, providing advice on the film's story and martial arts choreography. See more »


When Ip Man gives Yuan the box that his dead brother cherished and walks away (towards the camera), near the end of the shot, Yuan is seen to open the box. On the next cut-scene, the box is closed and he is seen to open it again. See more »


Miura: [after witnessing Ip Man single-handedly defeat ten Japanese fighters at once] What's your name?
Ip Man: I'm just a Chinese man.
See more »


Spoofed in 72 ga cho hak (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

"Wing Chun, Ip Man."-- Donnie Yen.
18 December 2008 | by (The Far East) – See all my reviews

No wonder Ip Chun (Ip Man's son, consultant to this movie) was so pleased-- from the twinkle in his eyes to the lifting of his feet, Donnie Yen inhabits this movie like he is possessed by Ip Man. And as Ip Man himself explains early in the movie: "the key is the person."

Revolving around the central (true) event of Ip Man rejecting the Japanese's "request" to train their soldiers when they occupied China and eventually sparring with them, this is essentially a genre movie built around the martial arts set-piece (Wing Chun vs Karate, see the trailer) "exploding" mid-way through.

And what a movie they have built up around their central show-piece! Taking on the common martial arts/Kung Fu Movie theme of "what can one martial artist do against a turbulent world/time?" (one of the movie's promotional tag-lines), the story "hook" is not whether Ip Man will win-- but rather when he will be forced to fight and what would happen when he does. And the notable level of acting, scripting, production, etc. --highlighting not only Ip Man but also the plight of his family, friends and townsmen-- really ramps up the drama and "heart" for audiences who might not care for the genre. One evidence for this is how "Ip Man" garnered 12 nominations for the 2009 HK Film Awards in both the acting/directing and technical categories-- though it really stands out as a killer Kung-Fu Film, and consequently won for Best Action Director and Best Film.

In short, "Ip Man" is quite a good ("mainstream") movie-- but a great martial arts/Kung Fu (not "action", as Donnie Yen points out during interviews) movie. And some telling numbers explain why:

There are around 12 fights or so (depending on how you count them) evenly spaced throughout the film, with Donnie Yen in almost half of them-- with 3 or so weapon fights (not counting guns) and 5 or so group fights (anything with more than 2 people)-- which is why this is a martial arts movie, and not an "action" movie (no explosions, chases, shoot-outs, etc.). The shortest fight takes about 10 seconds and his longest runs around 2 minutes-- which gels with Donnie Yen's belief that real people fight to win and don't "pose, talk, fight, run, and... pose, talk, fight, run and...". Together with the miscellaneous violence (guns, etc.), the audience is virtually given an "adrenaline shot" every 5 minutes or so to give audiences something to laugh, cry or even cheer about.

Of course, it also inspired in me a new-found respect for Wing Chun (Ip Man's school of martial arts)-- as well as action director Sammo Hung's "tight" choreography and camera-work (in China/HK, action directors control the camera as well as direct the actors). The close-to-mid range shots make it easier to "catch" the stunt doubles... but just like everything else in the movie-- blink and you'll miss it!

For much like Wing Chun, everything in this movie get to the point quickly-- so that at over 100 minutes, the movie feels much too short.... But thank you, Wilson Yip (the director), for respecting the audience and not belaboring the "message"-- for a movie that is basically a war/ nationalist melodrama, it manages to unfold as elegantly as Ip Man's character (& Donnie Yen's acting).

But for those who care about the "downside": this movie is only loosely "based on" Ip Man's life-- in that the earlier parts is a dramatization of various accounts, the middle section is highly exaggerated (1-to-1 vs many-to-1 sparring), and the end is completely fictional (read: lead to an end-fight). And as a "World War II side-story" about a simple people in a small place (Foshan, China), there are only a few lines of text and transitional scenes depicting the Japanese invasion/occupation of Foshan (the director didn't have the budget to show how Foshan lost 3/4 of its population)-- though it manages to be quite effective, especially for those already familiar with the history. But those craving more creativity, complexity or completeness in this movie will be disappointed-- especially by the rather haphazard way the movie "wraps up" Ip Man's life at the end (when it wasn't certain whether/how a sequel would be made).

Whatever the quibble, "Ip Man" heralds a break-though in realism for "grounded" martial arts/ Wushu movies; the way "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" heralded a break-through in surrealism for "floating" martial arts/Wuxia movies. It is clearly made for fans of Wing Chun and Kung Fu Movies-- and it makes no apologies for that (thank goodness for no "foreign" investors-- though it means that this movie is unlikely to get foreign distribution).

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