Ip Man (2008)

March 04, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

For those thirsty for a classic martial arts story with fully-automatic action, Ip Man is the flick to check out. Ip Man is a loose bio-pic based on a Chinese Martial Arts hero and mentor of Bruce Lee, and it delivers on all aspects that are necessary for a great martial arts action film. It balances story with action entertainingly well, and is backed by fine performances, and furious fight choreography.

Director Wilson Yip directs the action scenes with an eye that captures the action in full doses, as he doesn’t cut away or excessively edit the scenes to make the actors and stuntmen look good. They look good because they are good. Yip appropriately utilizes stylistic moments by way of point-of-view shots of the damage being taken, slow motion flourishes, or even just a good angle to heighten the brutality or match the humor of the main character.

Donnie Yen plays the title character, and does so with a sage-like stature, and a genuine passion for the martial arts. Ip Man is devoted to the well-being of his family and community, and he comes off as an authentic hero. Yen projects Ip Man as a kind-hearted man that is also capable of snapping bones and bruising bodies. The script also gives Ip Man range to become more grounded by reality, as the Japanese take over his small village, during the late 1930s. On top of Yen giving us the heroic Ip Man, there are also moments that he shows selfishness, desperation, and vengeful anger, making him a human hero.

This is one satisfying martial arts flick that packs a punch with purpose. It isn’t just mindless action, but there’s genuine motivation for the violent moments. Whether it’s to defend his family and community or keep the peace, Ip Man has a reasonable drive to fight other than the audience’s ticket money and expectations.

Potential Drawbacks:

No one really felt like a true threat to Ip Man’s skill. Colonel Sato came close, only because he had the threat of a gun, but that was about it. Ip Man was never tested by someone that was his match. Looking at his match-ups, the hype before the match-ups were empty threats. Ip Man’s family isn’t really drawn out to be significant. Ip Man is told that he should spend more time with his son, but we never end up seeing him do that–oh well.

Film Recommendations:

Ip Man 2
Fist of Fury

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