I had to call into work today because Donnie Yen’s Ip Man kicked my @$$ last night.
This movie should really be released theatrically stateside, but it won’t sadly. I wish American cinema was a little more receptive to subtitled movies, because Ip Man really deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Ip Man tells the story of…well, Ip Man (it’s a name, it’s not like Bat Man), the man who taught martial arts to Bruce Lee. Yes, that Bruce Lee. It’s 1930s China, and in the town of Foshan, the biggest booming business is that of the Martial Arts school. Still, the most talented martial artist, Ip Man, refuses to open up a school. For the most part, he even refuses to practice in public. He’s pretty wealthy (though it’s not really explained why), and extremely humble. Still, when a rival martial artist comes to town, besting every dojo owner and challenging Man, the humility fades and Man doesn’t hesitate to pummel the man.
Things are looking up for Ip Man, but when the war hits, everything changes. Japan invades China, and Ip Man and his family are living in poverty, trying to split small amounts of food and make them last as long as possible. Man’s wife falls ill and it’s up to him to find the money to pay for more food and medicine for his family. He takes up a job at a mine and, as luck would have it, a Japanese general regularly goes to this mine, looking for martial artists to practice his skills on. Ultimately, he meets Man and offers him a job teaching the Japanese the art of Wing Chun. Of course, Man refuses, leading to a showdown for the very heart of the Chinese people.
From the beginning to the end credits, I loved everything about Ip Man. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll end up in my top 10 films of 2009. Donnie Yen, who I’m a HUGE fan of, hasn’t really been doing so hot lately. His last two films (An Empress and her Warriors, Painted Skin) have been pretty underwhelming, but it seems like when he’s really passionate about a project (and when he works with director Wilson Yip), he puts his best foot forward. First there was SPL (Kill Zone), Dragon Tiger Gate, Flash Point, and now there’s Ip Man. It’s a departure from the previous three, two of which were crime dramas and the other a wild comic book film, but I think it’s actually the best film they’ve done together.
Donnie Yen’s acting is superb, as is the acting across the board, really. The cinematography is beautiful, the direction is fantastic. I really have very little bad to say about this film.
The most riveting part about the story is that it’s a true story. The Japanese really did ask Ip Man to teach them martial arts and he really did refuse. I’m sure there were embellishments taken with the tale (I’d love to know if Ip Man really took on 10 Japanese fighters at the same time), but the overall plot of the movie is based on fact.
My only problem with the film is it’s ending. It really ends rather suddenly, and (in my mind) without an appropriate resolution, but, from what I hear, there’s already a sequel in the works, chronicling Man’s years training Bruce Lee. How can that not be good?
Do yourself a favor and pre-order the import DVD from YesAsia. It comes out on February 13th, and who knows how long an American DVD will take to come out. Just make sure you have a Region Free DVD player (like a Ps3).
Paul Awesomeness Score: 9 out of 10!