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  Publicity Stills of "Ip Man"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Simon Yam, Fan Siu Wong, Lam Ka Tung, Wong You Nam, Calvin Cheng, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & InnoForm Media
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.ipman-movie.com/

Article: An Ip Man Special: The Real Dragon Master and Action Star Donnie Yen

Opening Day: 18 December 2008


The movie is adapted from the life story of Ip Man, the grand master of the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu and Sifu (master) of legendary Kung Fu superstar Bruce Lee.

Ip Man - martial art’s unyielding follower, whole-heartedly devotee to the free learning of Wushu. The fight to be top between the Wushu schools in the southern and northern regions of China did not stop him from goodwill matches with other practitioners. Nationalistic bad feelings and racial hatred did not lessen his respect for Japanese Kung Fu warriors. In a great era of hate and tragedies, Ip focused only on Wushu. His enthusiasm for martial arts saw led to devastating street fights with various elite practitioners.

To this date, neither movies nor publications about Ip Man exist. This movie is the first important record of the master’s life. Ip’s persistent devotion to Wing Chun is a classic example of the love and respect for Wushu and the freedom and spirit it represents.

Movie Review:

I’ll begin by saying this- Donnie Yen is to Ip Man what Jet Li is to Wong Fei-Hung. And accordingly, Ip Man the movie is a thrilling martial arts flick about the legendary Wing Chun master that is set to join the league of classics like the Once Upon A Time in China series.

Indeed, Ip Man and Wong Fei-Hung are in fact similar in more ways than one. Like Wong Fei-Hung, Ip Man was born in Foshan, China (albeit about 50 years apart). Like Wong Fei-Hung too, Ip Man found himself in a position to inspire the hearts and minds (and fists) of his fellow countrymen. While Wong resisted the imperialism of the West in the middle to late 1800s, Ip Man defied the invasion of the Japanese during the late 1930s.

When we first meet Ip Man, he is living a comfortable existence in his own sprawling bungalow with his wife (Xiong Dai Lin) and son. It is mid-1930s and Foshan is a hive of martial arts activity as various clubs and societies set up schools to recruit disciples and pugilists go about challenging one another in friendly duels. Not so for Ip Man, who prefers a more private life and repeatedly refuses requests to take on any disciples.

But let not his humility fool you- one confrontation with an arrogant bandit from the North (Fan Sui-Wong) which Ip Man promptly disposes with brutal efficiency will convince you that he is probably the most powerful pugilist of them all.

Fast forward a few years and Foshan has since fallen into the oppressive hands of the Japanese. Its citizens live in abject poverty and Ip Man is no exception, resorting to menial work to eke out a living for his family. Meanwhile, a certain Japanese General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) has taken to organizing fights pitting the Chinese against his fellow Japanese for his amusement.

Ip Man’s curiosity is piqued when one of his close friends, Lam (Xing Yu), disappears after volunteering for one such fight. Seeing his fellow countrymen trodden by the Japanese at the arena, Ip Man is moved to take to the mat. Impressed by Ip Man’s skill (he takes on 10 Japanese fighters at one go), General Miura invites Ip Man to a public showdown that pits the might of the Japanese aggressor against the dignity of the oppressed Chinese.

While biopics sometimes bite off more than they can chew, this movie is focused intimately on Ip Man’s beginnings as a teacher of Wing Chun that eventually sowed the seeds for the flourishing of this form of martial arts the world over. And this is both the movie’s strength and weakness- strength because it helps the audience connect with how Ip Man found his calling to teach and weakness because it says little else about the life of Ip Man.

Fortunately, the movie succeeds because both Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip have made this journey touching and heartfelt. In what is definitely a career highlight, Donnie Yen turns in one of his best performances as the legendary Ip Man. There is none of the usual overacting detractors have often accused him of; instead, Donnie Yen brings gravitas and authority to the role of the dignified Wing Chun master.

Kudos also to director Wilson Yip- he captures both the thriving pre-war Foshan and the wretched wartime state skilfully such that the peace-war transition is truly a humbling sight to behold. Of course, the highlight of any martial arts flick are the fighting sequences and to his credit, Wilson Yip has assembled a great team including action director Sammo Hung, choreographer Leung Siu-Hung and the eldest son of Ip Man, Ip Chun as wing chun advisor.

The result of which are several gripping fight scenes that definitely will not disappoint any hardcore martial arts fan. Each of the rousing sequences executed flawlessly by Donnie Yen are an authentic tribute to the nature of Wing Chun- characterized by aggressive close range combat most aptly demonstrated in the vertical punch (thrown with the elbow down in front of the body) in quick succession.

If the spirit of martial arts is just as important as its form, then this movie captures perfectly both the spirit of the master Ip Man as well as the art of Wing Chun. Indeed, Ip Man the movie is not just thrilling and exciting, it is moving and affecting. It belongs right up there with the classic martial arts flicks of yesteryears.

Movie Rating:

(Nothing short of a classic, and probably Donnie Yen’s best performance to date.)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Painted Skin (2008)

. An Empress And The Warriors (2008)

. Flash Point (2007)

. Dragon Tiger Gate (2006)

. Fearless (2006)

. SPL (2005)

. Seven Swords (2005)

. The Twins Effect II (2004)

. Iron Monkey DVD (1993)


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