Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man (Review)
China/2008
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a modern martial arts classic."

The story of legendary Grandmaster of Wing Chun, Ip Man (Donnie Yen), from his humble and wealthy life in Foshan to the Japanese invasion.

Ip Man basically follows the titular character through these two major events. The story begins in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub for skilled martial artists. His extraordinary skills shine as he duels with a fellow master and an outsider looking to bully himself into the market. The film then skips into the Japanese invasion where Ip Man and his family lose their wealth and struggle to survive. Ip Man soon finds himself fighting for his country as he faces off against several Japanese fighters, and faces a grand challenge with General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). A very simple yet insightful and engaging plot that leads to an epic climax and satisfying ending.

Although the plot is overall very engaging and interesting, Ip Man has a stronger focus on character and action. We find out quite a bit about Ip Man, such as his personality and philosophy, through some great dialogue. The action is the main course for the film, though, it's a feast for martial arts fans. The action sequences are ferocious thanks to the lighting fast and vicious fight choreography. Honestly, the fights are simply awe-inspiring, which will either leave you breathless or with goosebumps. And, it's so consistent and balanced, too. We learn a little about Ip Man and his lifestyle, then a fantastic fight, and repeat. But, it doesn't feel repetitive, because it is balanced and versatile -- both in character and action.

It does occasionally have the anti-Japanese stench many Chinese films are known for. It didn't really bother me, though, because it's not overwhelming -- at least most of the time. A character like General Miura is treated like an antagonist, which is fine because he is. This issue is most noticeable with General Miura's sidekick, who is treated more as a villain -- and, I mean like a super-villain type of character. Fortunately, the character isn't overused. And, again, it wasn't a significant issue for me, but it's worth noting.

Donnie Yen is superb as the lead -- he has the right charisma for the character, a very humble and genuine performance. Simon Yam and Lynn Hung are great as the supporting cast, too. The film features superb camerawork and cinematography, as well, it keeps a natural flow so it never becomes nauseating. The set and costume design helped create a more immersive world. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great -- there are some errors, but nothing that hurts the story. The action choreography/direction is magnificent. Director Wilson Yip does well in developing an iconic character without ever sacrificing action.

Overall, Ip Man is a modern martial arts classic. I've seen the film multiple times now, and I have never been bored by it. It's as refreshing as my first viewing thanks to the superb, unforgettable action sequences, the great story, and Donnie Yen's performance. The setting is also masterfully crafted to
create an even more immersive and engaging film. If you're a fan of martial arts films and you haven't seen Ip Man... what are you waiting for?

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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