Ip Man (2008) – Review

4 Stars

Ip Man is a stunning martial arts film, laced with beautiful action choreography and a storyline that drips with Chinese patriotism. At the center of all the action is Master Ip (Donnie Yen), the greatest fighter in the Fo Shan providence. We know of his tremendous skills, because of an early sequence in which the Master bests a gang of hoodlums looking to challenge the best martial arts instructors in China. Each teacher falls victim to the merciless brutes, expect Master Ip. Like most imports, the structure is all over the place. The actual story doesn’t begin to develop until about the 30 minutes mark, when China is invaded by the Japanese in 1938 and Master Ip is rendered homeless, and broke. Forced to give up his lavish lifestyle, Ip must take work shoveling coal to provide rice for his starving wife and child.

The Japanese soldiers patrol the once prosperous Fo Shan, looking for Chinese men willing to fight in a staged tournament against the toughest Japanese masters. When Ip Man’s friend is brutally killed, he immediately joins the fight club in order to avenge the death of his buddy. Although Ip Man is far superior on a technical basis, it contains much of the symbolism and irony, chronicling the Chinese people’s oppression under Japanese occupation that was present in Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. Donnie Yen has appeared in over 55 films in a career spanning nearly 30 years, Ip Man is some of his most impressive work to date.

If you consider yourself a fan of Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and of course Bruce Lee, than Ip Man is not to be missed. In fact you will probably want to see it more than once, a rare instant classic in the Asian martial arts movies sub-genre. A stirring film about a man that practices not only kung-fu but benevolence during a time when the Japanese army was abusing its military power. Heavy stuff, particularly for us westerners that have grown accustomed to action stars that crack jokes and one-liners as often as they bust skulls.

Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Siu-Wong Fan

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