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Donnie Yen is a long time favorite of mine, although this is mainly due
to his martial arts skills and screen presence rather than his acting
skills. In Ip Man (or Ye Wen, as they were shouting in the seats next
to mine) he delivers a truly solid performance on the acting side,
carrying the burden of a nation on his shoulders with gravitas, at
least that's what he conveyed to the audience at the cinema. They were
actually applauding at times. Then again, moviegoers might be more
absorbed over here on a regular basis. I digress.
I'm not going to delve deeper into plot details. The basic stuff is already outlined above, and I also feel the historical accuracy of certain events depicted can be debated. That's a bit of a moot point, though, since most people will watch this for the action scenes. Nobody will be disappointed. Donnie kicks twelve kinds of ass in this movie, and it is all accompanied by some of the meanest sound design I've ever heard. Every one of his rapid punches can be felt as he pummels the poor bastards in his way with the Ip Man-style of martial arts (imdb won't let me spell out the name for some reason). The final bout is epic,but for me it was one scene about halfway through that got my heart beating faster. It involves Donnie, ten Japanese karate practitioners and some of the most furious fighting I've ever seen on screen. You can really sense the anger of his character in this scene. Great stuff.
The film moves forward at a brisk pace and contains a surprisingly large amount of fight scenes. It totally lacks the vintage over-the-top-aesthetics of Donnie Yen's films of the 80's and 90's, but for some people that's a good thing. I personally think this is his finest performance to date.
Highly recommended for fans of martial arts cinema!
I shall now proclaim unabashedly that I absolutely love this movie!
It's been some time since we last saw a biopic on one of the Chinese's
martial arts folk heroes, with Jet Li's Fearless being the last
memorable one to hit the big screen. While Li lays claim to three of
such roles in the iconic Wong Fei Hung (in the Tsui Hark movies), Fong
Sai Yuk and Huo Yuan Jia in Fearless, after which he felt he had to
hang up his martial arts roles because he thought that he had
communicated all that he wanted about martial arts through these films.
And thank goodness for Donnie Yen still being around to pick up from
where the genre left off, and presenting a memorable role which he
truly owned, with Ip Man being the first cinematic rendition of the
Wing Chun martial arts grandmaster.
In this bio-pic, Ip Man, one of the earliest Wing Chun martial arts exponents credited to have propagated its popularity, gets portrayed as the best of the best in 1930s Fo Shan, China, where the bustling city has its own Martial Arts Street where countless of martial arts schools have set up shop to fuel the craze of kung fu training. With each new school, the master will pay their respects to Ip Man and to challenge him to a duel. Ip Man, an aristocrat who spends most of his quality time developing and perfecting his brand of martial arts, will take them on behind closed doors, so as not to damage his opponents' reputation nor embarrass them in public. His humility is his virtue, and his style is never violent or aggressive, which often gets assumed and mistaken for being effeminate, since Wing Chun after all was founded by a woman.
The bulk of the story gets set in the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, and it's not all fight and no story. Witth this historical setting, at times it does seem that there is an air of familiarity with the type of stories told, with how the Japanese Imperial Army had made life really miserable for the Chinese, and how the Chinese being fragmented in spirit, fail to unite during dire straits. More often than note, martial arts become a unifying force, and this aspect of the narrative might seem to be a walk in the usual territory.
But with its array of charismatic supporting cast with the likes of Simon Yam as Ip Man's best friend and industrialist Quan, and Lam Ka Tung as a cop turned translator, there are little nicely put sub plots which seek to expand the air of respect that Ip Man commands amongst his community. The story by Edmond Wong did not demonize all the villains, often adding a dash of empathy and sympathy to the likes of the Japanese General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), a highly skilled exponent from the North called Zhao (Fan Siu Wong) as well as Lam's translator character who is deemed as a traitor for being in the service of the Japanese. Ip Man the family man also gets put under the spotlight, where his passion could sometimes leave him neglecting his wife and kid, and through the course of the story this focus often leaves one quite exasperated for his family's safety as he puts his countrymen above self and family when going up against the oppressive Japanese forces.
So what's the verdict on the action? Action junkies won't have to wait too long before watching Ip Man in action, and to Sammo Hung and Tony Leung Siu Hung's credit, they have intricately designed some of the most varied martial arts sequences in the movie, such as private fights in his home, a factory mêlée, a Japanese dojo battle as seen in the trailer, (which I know has actually sent some positive vibes amongst moviegoers, mouth agape at that incredible scene of Yen continuously beating down a karateka) being somewhat of a throwback and reminiscent of Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury, and a ringside duel amongst others. And it's not just Ip Man who gets in on the action, but specialized martial arts moves designed for the various practitioners as well. It's so difficult to name any particular one as a personal favorite, though I must add that you definitely won't feel short changed by the time the inevitable final battle comes rolling along and gets delivered with aplomb.
I'm no Wing Chun practitioner, but Donnie Yen has this marvelous calm and zen like approach with his Ip Man taking out his opponents quite effectively with the minimal of moves. Like Huo Yuan Jia, he doesn't deliver the killing blows to friendly opponents, but rather simulates the various hit points, which actually calls for some astonishing control of strength and precision. This approach will change of course as the opponents become anything but friendly. And unlike the usual martial arts stance of crouching low, here we see him standing tall and striking with such precision and efficiency, it's like poetry in motion with some astounding closed quarter combat utilizing plenty of upper limb strength.
With Wong Kar-wai at one point also declaring interest in making a Ip Man movie, I thought that this effort will be hard to beat, just like how Tsui Hark has crafted some of the more definitive movies in modern times about Wong Fei Hung and Jet Li benefiting from a major career boost, I'd say Ip Man just about cements Yen's reputation as a martial arts leading man, which I guess the cinematic world these days severely lacks. This has to go down in my books as one of my favorite movies of the year, and I'm already setting some money aside to get the best available edition of the DVD when it gets released. Highly recommended, so make a beeline for the box office now!
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).
This is Donnie Yen's best acting piece for awhile now, and he still
delivers the action sequences brilliantly. At 44 years of age, he looks
so energetic, confident and charismatic. I believe the combination of
Yen, Sammo Hung and Wilson Yip is the right choice for this particular
film and fighting style. Wing Chun is best depicted without the
flamboyant ballet of acrobatics often seen in other wushu films.
The movie doesn't dwell on historical accuracy, but rather use that settings to set the mood, deliver the message and simply tells you the life journey of a Grandmaster in an fun and entertaining way.
I remember that Richard Attenborough said (regarding Gandhi) that there was no way a director/movie maker could encompass and depict a person's life journey in only a 2 or 3-hour movie. But rather one should aim to emulate the spirit of that person, and the message/lesson of his story. I think this movie does that, with a quality production that raised the bar for period drama.
My rating is missing 1 point because I feel that there were plot devices that had been done-to-death before in other movies like: Fists of Fury, Fearless, Kill Bill, etc. However, Yip Man simply turns the notch to a higher sound-beating level.
Don't miss this on the big screen!
Excellent direction, photography and set design enliven this account of
Wing Chun instructor Yip Man's life before he moved to Hong Kong. Every
Wing Chun instructor today tries to make a lineage connection to Yip
Man to legitimize their teaching so he is a very important figure in
Kung Fu. Donnie Yen portrays the master with intense reserve and is
possibly the best acting in his career. It surprised me for sure.
The story line of this film is invented as historical accounts show Yip Man to have been a police officer in the time frame this film covers, not staying at home and only practicing kung fu as depicted here. Also the film claims that he refused to teach anybody but that is also not true. He left for Hong Kong a few years after WW2 not in the middle of it as this film presents. The plot with the Japanese army seems invented although they did ask him to teach the troops which he refused.
However the film muddies up the historical record, that is not to say it isn't a great film. Sammo Hung's choreography is exceptional and a throwback to his great kung fu films of the early 1980's. The martial arts are done with great respect to traditional styles although some wire work is used to assist the actors with the difficult acrobatic moves. No flying across the room in this film.
Although the ending is a little abrupt, this is one kung fu film that can be recommended to people who don't like these films. Highly recommended.
Ip Man is very touching and full of mildness,considering it's an action movie. Wisedom, courage, elegance, humour...all the mixed elements you surely will feel from Ip man and they will definitely move you. All actors have done a great job. I believe this is the best movie that Zhen Zidan has ever contributed. This time he is not only a warrior, but also a wise, gentle, and conscientious man, a good husband. People clapped hands and weeped from time to time. I have watched it for two times,and longing for the third time when the DVD is coming. You know, Ip Man did not ballyhoo before it is shown, but it undoubtedly becomes a huge dark horse. It is really worthy of watching it.
Ip Man has quenched our thirst of a real good martial art movie where
we don't just watch man kicking asses but where we can appreciate the
man's moral and virtues.
The movie flows well, from the view of the kungfu street of Fo Shan, to the introduction of Ip Man, and so on. Scene by scene are there in a well done play, and when someone had to display martial art act, they don't just throw bunch of minions out from nowhere to have him beating them all over. I think the scenario is well written.
Fight choreography is great. Different approach from what we usually see, people doing flashy flying kicks and sorts; since it is about wing chun, feet hardly ever leave the ground but it doesn't decrease the beauty and flashiness of the fights.
People may complain about bits that might not fit the real condition of those era. Well, I think producers have to make sure they made entertaining movies, not documentaries.
Last words, Donnie Yuen has always been a good martial art actor, he just never get the spotlight. And finally as Ip Man he gets to stand on where he deserves.
Forget "Flashpoint". "Ip Man" shows Donnie Yen at his brutal best.
Telling the story of Yip Man, the man believed to have popularized the
martial art of Wing Chun, before and mostly during the Sino-Japanese
Yen caught my attention after seeing him in "SPL". Then in "Flashpoint", I was stunned by his moves, and thought he was the next Jet Li. Well, after this I think he may very well be the next Bruce Lee. I mean it! Not only injecting humanity and superb characterization, Yen also demonstrates his brutality when it comes to fighting. And boy, it does not get more brutal than this! Seriously, Yen's fists move like machine gun bullets. And he makes sure that his opponents are down for the count... at their expense, and our enjoyment. Definitely Yen at his bruising best.
Other actors worth mentioning, Simon Yam and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as Ip Man's business partner/friend and the Japanese General respectively. The former portrays Ip Man's comrade with heart, while the latter performs with steely resolve and honor. This is a film that is not just made with action, but a good story as well.
The fight scenes here are arguably Yen's best so far, and the best in over a decade. People are getting beaten, martial arts duels are taking place, and blood is spilled. This is not an action movie, it's a kung fu movie. And it shows. Legendary kung fu star Sammo Hung brilliantly choreographs the fight scenes to perfection, and it looks like he's not going to slow down any time soon. The direction by Wilson Yip is slick and gripping as always, and he also gives the film a nice sepia tone to give feeling to the film.
In short, great. This is a must-see for kung fu film fans to get their adrenal glands pumping. It's one of the best kung fu films of the decade. See it if you have the chance.
Ip Man (1893-1972) is the expert in the Wushu fighting style of Wing
Chun, and is the master of the famous Bruce Lee. As there has never
been any previous film record of Ip Man, this film produced by Raymond
Wong and directed by Wilson Yip will be the very first.
The movie opens and dates back to 1935 Foshan, with the city bustling with activities and various schools of martial arts are seen busy with the practice of their craft. In the people's mind however there would be only one martial artist who is the best. He however would have no interest in opening a school to teach his art. He is Ip Man, played by Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen.
Our introduction to Ip Man began on the day when Master Liu (Chen Zhi-Hui) visits Ip Man at his residence when the latter is having dinner with his wife and son. Being the typical martial arts enthusiast that Master Liu is, he declined to leave when advised by Ip Man to come back at another time, choosing instead to stay and wait until Ip Man have finished his dinner. He is eager to test his skills against Master Ip Man. The mood here is not of hostility but of a light hearted and humorous fashion. Ip Man even invited Master Liu to sit and have dinner with his family when he spots him restlessly waiting by the living room. We see here the humble and modest character of the protagonist.
When the sparring finally got underway, it ended as swiftly as Ip Man's strokes suggest. Because in three strokes and a set of quick fists, he had Master Liu at his peril, well defeated yet without injury, as this was all but a friendly exchange in the spirit of martial arts. The essence of Ip Man's fighting style, Wing Chun, is characterized by its tall narrow stance with effectiveness demonstrated through speed and power. It reminds of the time when Bruce Lee had to slow his punches down during filming, as they were just too fast for the cameras back then to capture.
In the world of martial arts, with all its attractiveness, it also brings with it the competitive nature of those who practice them. With competitiveness taken the wrong way, things can go awfully wrong when all one wants to achieve is to have the other beaten so as to prove who the superior fighter is. A thug in Kam Shan-chau (Fan Sui-Wong) later arrives and challenges the various schools, defeating their masters ruthlessly, until he came face to face with Ip Man. Kam lost to Ip Man with a lesson he ought to have learn, only that he did not and left Foshan with only disgrace in his mind. The people celebrate as they hail Ip Man the savior who brought glory to Foshan by sending the thug away.
The fight ends but the story have only just began, and with it a change of mood from lightness to heavy because war has broken. The Japanese have seized Foshan.
What follows will be Ip Man's struggles and challenges as he has to make ends meet for his family in the dreadful time of adversity. It is here we see the true character of Ip Man, who has captured the hearts of the people of Foshan and their respect. This is most notable among his friends in Chow Ching-chuen (Simon Yam), his son Chow Kong-yiu (Calvin Cheng), and Crazy Lam (Xing Yu).
To mistake this film, as one of just good versus evil is easy because in a movie that has a hero, there must be a villain. There are a few characters here befitting of the role. We have the Japanese general, Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). We have the aforementioned thug, Kam Shan-chau. We also have police officer turned interpreter, Li Chiu (Lam Ka-tung) who appears to be a traitor. The film here however should not to be seen as a fight against evil but rather of the depiction of humanistic values that Ip Man himself would possess.
There are many meaningful messages encrypted in the various plots and subplots in this wonderful film that really is about virtues more than anything else. As producer Raymond Wong would suggest on why the production team had chosen to make this film, it is that of really making a kung fu movie that is authentic and real, moving away from past attempts at glorifying and stylizing violence on screen. The intention is to make a film that would reflect the spirit of Chinese kung fu, and what better than to portray it through the virtuous character of Master Ip Man.
I would have like to compare this film to Fearless aka Huo Yuan Jia (2006), starring Jet Li, which strings from a similar root, but at the very core, the approach is different. While Fearless is written in a more dramatic nature, with a more compelling story and edited with a creative dimension, Ip Man is honest and direct because that is who our protagonist is.
What stood out for me in Ip Man is when he ponders in introspection about what use his training and expertise in Wing Chun all his years would come to. It would appear that there is destiny waiting to be fulfilled. And he would also influence those around him with what he has and even lead those who have been wrong to do right despite the pressure of circumstances, because to the very basis, it is the right thing to do in humanity.
History means nothing if its lessons are not learned.
The film also stars the stunning Xiong Dai Lin as Cheung Wing-sing, Ip Man's wife, and I must also not forget to mention that the acclaimed Sammo Hung directs the action.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
IP MAN is the story of, err, Ip Man, a Chinese martial arts master in
the 1930s. The story is in two halves. In the first we are introduced
to Ip Man. We learn about his family, about the martial arts schools
and about his dislike of teaching. Conflict occurs when a band of
Northern bandits/martial artists arrive and beat up all the other
martial artists. Ip Man steps in and beats up the bandits, restoring
the honour of the city. In the second half the Japanese invade China.
They take Ip Man's house and he is reduced to living in poverty.
Conflict occurs here when he discovers a Japanese General organising
tournaments of Japanese Martial Arts versus Chinese Martial Arts which
have led to deaths. Ip Man eventually takes on and beats the General,
inspiring the people to resist the Japanese.
Like a lot of these films the plot is wholly predictable, especially the second half. China specialises in these sort of technically excellent but emotionally blank epics in which the Chinese unite in order to beat up the British/Japanese (usually with little to no basis in historical fact). Usually the spark is provided by a tournament in which a Chinese underdog defeats the British boxer/Japanese martial artist, thereby regaining Chinese honour. It's all xenophobic tosh of the highest order, which would be fine if it wasn't for the predictability of it all.
Donnie Yen stars as Ip Man and turns in an emotionally dead performance, demonstrating a dazzling range of perhaps two facial expressions. Ip Man, it turns out, is really quite dull. He accepts everything without resignation, has the perfect wife, the perfect kid, is respected by all and is so superior to everyone else that the final fight is totally one sided, robbing it of jeopardy, of tension and of excitement. He's also a bit of a muppet - halfway through the film, with his wife dying of starvation, he looks around their slum tenement and announces that he will get a job. If they are starving then why on earth didn't he get a job before?! All the other characters are one-note at best and thoroughly forgettable. There is a whole sub-plot about Ip Man's investment in a Cotton Mill (which is threatened by robbers) which is dull even by the standards of the rest of the film.
The whole thing ends with a hilarious piece of text that attempts to claim the Japanese surrender in 1945 was due to the Chinese. I think two atomic bombs (and the Soviet, American and British Commonwealth armies) might also have had a little something to do with it... It's attempt to justify Ip Man's flight to Hong Kong by claiming he brought the Chinese together is particularly shameless (especially as the war had many years to go) And it seems that the film-makers will repay British hospitality and protection by making them the bad guys for the sequel.
It is all very technically competent and Mr Yen is undoubtedly a talented martial artist but the propaganda is so obvious, the plot so predictable, the characters so dull, that you can't care. Even the fights, whilst accomplished, are nothing you haven't seen done before - and better.
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