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Overall Rating
4.7

Awesome80%
Worth A Look: 10%
Just Average: 10%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 4 user ratings


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Ip Man
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by Jay Seaver

"There's ass-kicking, and there's 'Bruce Lee called him Master'."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Ip Man" is a bit of a throwback, and I mean that as a compliment. It's easy to watch it and get the feel of an old Shaw Brothers movie, or Jet Li's "Once Upon a Time in China" series. It's prettier than the former and more modern than the latter, but like both, it consistently delivers the fantastic action. This is only to be expected, with one of Hong Kong's greatest current action stars (Donnie Yen), playing a legend (Ip Man had Bruce Lee as a disciple) with a fantastic team of action filmmakers putting it together.

As the movie opens in 1935, Ip Man (Yen) lives something like a life of leisure, occupying a fine house in martial arts-crazy Fo Shan, but not having any particular work. He lends his businessman friend Zhou Qingquan (Simon Yam) some money to open a cotton mill, but even though he is a master of Wing Chun, he doesn't have students. However, that doesn't prevent Jin Shan-zhoe (Fan Siu-wong) from challenging him when he comes to town looking to establish himself as the top master. Jin won't be the only challenger Ip must face; three years later, after the Japanese have invaded, the occupying General, Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), is a great martial arts enthusiast and challenges all of Fo Shan's martial arts masters. Ip Man is uninterested, at least until one of his friends is beaten to death.

Ip Man follows the basic structure of a Shaw Brothers movie - comedic opening, invaders who occupy the hero's small town, plenty of time for formal practicing and dueling in addition to action where the participants realy mean it. Director Wilson Yip and writer Edmond Wong execute it about as well as possible, giving us a chance to get to know not just Master Ip, but his family and his entire town, investing us in the place much better than just having the occupying Japanese be generically cruel. It also, more so than many martial arts films, gives us a chance to consider the various fighting styles. Wing Chun is, early on, denigrated for being invented by a woman, and there is something feminine about it; we can see the lack of macho posturing, as well as the grace and economy of movement compared to the other fighters' wushu and karate.

The action scenes are fantastic. Choreographed by Tony Leung Siu-hung and directed by the great Sammo Hung, they give us a good look at each fighter's style, hold shots long enough to let the audience see a barrage of moves and counter-moves, while still cutting enough to see things from different angles without the instant replay effect. A lot of them look like they hurt, too, especially when Ip fights ten Japaenese soldiers at once. The filmmakers give that fight, and others where more than just reputation is at stake, a little extra edge, but all of them are exhilarating.

This is thanks in no small part to having Donnie Yen in the title role. Yen is a pretty good actor, and though the role doesn't require him to stretch all that much, he's a genial presence on screen and has nice chemistry with his co-stars. He's also probably the best screen martial artist of his generation, and it's sheer delight to watch him at work, either practicing on a wooden mannequin or sparring with his opponents. He can go from a very calm, sedate set-up to a blisteringly fast set of blows in the blink of an eye, and even by the end of the movie, the fury involved is still a surprise.

It takes two to tango, of course, and Yen can't sell the movie alone. Xiong Dai-lin plays off him nicely as Ip's wife, a woman obviously of good breeding who is often disappointed by his obsession with martial arts over other things but is brave and supportive besides all that. Lam Ka-tung starts out a comedic character (the local policeman) and then gets to go interesting places as the interpreter for the invading Japanese. Then there's the villains, a nicely varied set: Fan Shiu-wang as the cocky, arrogant Jin, a brawler who has a number of great fights with Ip; Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as Miura, who possesses a certain sort of honor but is also chilling in his single-minded dedication; and Colonel Sato (sadly, I can't find the actor's name anywhere), as good of a secondary villain/lead henchman as you will find (as in, you can't wait for the sadistic little coward to get his).

"Ip Man" is a familiar story, and certainly doesn't break much new stylistic ground, but it also can't be executed much better. The movie is jam-packed with excellent fights, the story is strong, and every bit of the film is handsome and polished. It delivers the goods as well as any other recent action movie you can name, and doesn't look too shabby when placed alongside the classics of the genre.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18978&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/10/09 10:47:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: New York Asian Film Festival 2009 For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/27/13 KingNeutron Worth a look, great fighting/action 4 stars
4/02/11 mr.mike Don't really see what all the fuss is about. 3 stars
12/27/10 Angelo S. I love martial arts films but hate sub-titles... Until now. Great Wing Chun action! 5 stars
8/02/10 big c awesome 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A (R)
  DVD: 27-Jul-2010

UK
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Australia
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Directed by
  Wilson Yip

Written by
  Edmond Wong

Cast
  Donnie Yen
  Simon Yam
  Siu-Wong Fan
  Ka Tung Lam
  Yu Xing



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