Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Edmond Wong
Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Ka Tung Lam, Siu-Wong Fan, Xing Yu, You-Nam Wong, Yu-Hang To, Calvin Ka-Sing Cheng, Zhi-Hui Chen, Tenma Shibuya
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
I’ve been very busy lately so I haven’t been able to dedicate much time at all to the blog. I haven’t done a movie review since Incendies (another great foreign film!) on November 13th. It’s almost been a full month! With Rogue One on the very close horizon (I’m seeing it at the midnight release) I thought I’d go and explore Donnie Yen’s trilogy of martial arts films from China which tell the true stories of martial artist Ip Man (Donnie Yen).
The first film tells the inspiring story of the man from the renowned martial arts town of Fo Shan who lived through the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 to stand up to a Japanese general, Muira (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), who wishes for the best Chinese fighters to teach the Japanese army. The film is all based on a true story as Ip Man actually went on to train the iconic Bruce Lee, although that’s something totally unrelated to this film and is only mentioned at the end of the film in a text summary of the rest of Ip Man’s life. After watching the film, his relation to Bruce Lee pails in comparison to the heroic feats of honour Master Ip shows in this part of his life.
As someone who really enjoys martial arts movies, I’ve only actually seen two foreign ones; The Raid and The Raid 2. The latter of which is one of my favourite all time films though and I have many on my watchlist. This lives up to those films although is a very different film. This movie is a biopic with a subject matter that is powerful, harrowing and dramatic with both the big picture Japanese invasion of China and the smaller, personal hardships Ip Man had to go through. I didn’t know much about this film going in and I was not expecting to be hit as hard, emotionally, as I was. This film can really punch you in the gut as all the surrounding characters in the film are well-rounded and multi-dimensional.
I was impressed massively by the film’s villain as I almost respected General Muira. His first in command, Sato (Tenma Shibuya), is the personification of evil and a character I hated more than any antagonist in a long time, but Muira himself showed distaste for Sato’s ways a lot and also showed respect for Ip Man. You don’t exactly like him because of what he represents and the evil he’s committed to China but he’s more than just a bad guy. But in the end, I have to really talk about Donnie Yen.
This man is a true master of the martial arts. He practised Wing Chun kung fu and the fight choreography he’s able to pull off against many other very talented performers is insane. I was continually blown away with pretty much every fight scene in the film leaving my jaw fully dropped. The film does a great job of grounding the “wire-fighting” style of action as well as there are plenty of floaty people flying through they air but it’s done in a way that’s believable. But not only is Donnie Yen a brilliant fighter, he’s also a great actor. He’s the emotional root of the film and he does not fail for a second. He’s unstoppable in every aspect in this film and I know now that this man should be in everything, not just martial art movies. This guy is insanely talented.
The film all builds to a finale that truly blew me away. With two sequels, you know what the end result will be but true suspense is not the unknown end but how we get to the end point. The film sets up certain doom brilliantly but we know he must survive, we just don’t know how. And damn was I sweating in the final fight of the movie. True nail-biting tension and fist-pumping inspiration all rolled into one in a way similar to the good Rocky films. I’ll be reviewing the other two Ip Man films over the next couple of days until Rogue One is released.
Summary: Perfect in both drama and martial arts action, Ip Man is a stunning true story about the massively inspiring man who trained Bruce Lee and did a lot of other, even better things.
Best Performance: Donnie Yen
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
-Written by Greg Warne