Mandarin Title: Ye Wen
Cantonese Title: Yat doi chung si Yip Man
Ip Man tells the story of one of China’s greatest martial artists. Yip Man was born in 1893 and passed away in 1972. He was a master of the martial arts style known as Wing Chun. His most well-known student would go on to become one of cinema’s greatest icons. His name was Bruce Lee.
Ip Man was released in Hong Kong in 2008 and became an instant success. It won 2 Hong Kong film awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography and was nominated for 10 other awards including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for 2 different roles.
A sequel, Ip Man 2,has already been made and released in Hong Kong this past April. There are already talks of a third Ip Man movie to be made in the future.
Ip Man is the fourth movie that the film’s star Donnie Yen (Shanghai Knights) and director Wilson Yip have worked on together.
In the city of Foshan during the 1930’s, the most famous kung fu fighter is Ip Man (Yen). He easily defeats the other kung fu “masters” in the city when they challenge him. When a country bumpkin (Siu-Wong Fan) comes to Foshan and beats everyone up, it is Ip Man that kicks and punches him out of town.
Ip Man’s life is very good until Japan invades and takes over China. Ip Man loses everything and he, along with his wife ( Lynn Hung) and son (Li Chak), struggle to survive.
When Ip Man’s friend (Xing Yu, Kung Fu Hustle) disappears after agreeing to share skills in a martial arts “exhibition” with the Japanese in exchange for a bag of rice, he begins to suspect something is not right.
The next time the Japanese are looking for fighters, Ip Man volunteers to go. After he sees one of his fellow masters brutally killed by a sadistic Japanese colonel (Shibuya Tenma), Ip Man rolls up his selves and decides its time to start kicking some Japanese butt. This leads to a final showdown between Ip Man and a Japanese general (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), who is a master of karate, for the pride of their beloved countries.
China vs. Japan is not a new concept in Hong Kong cinema. If you know a little bit of history about either country, you’ll know that these two Asian powerhouses have been battling each other for centuries.
The classic film, Fist of Fury (1972) starring Bruce Lee, was an anti-Japanese film. 20 years later, Jet Li would star in a very similar movie called Fist of Legend (1994).
Wilson Yip and writer Edmond Wong do a wonderful job of conjuring up national pride, if you’re Chinese. For an American, they’re equally successful in making a lighting-quick kung fu flick that packs quite a wallop.
The action is “fast and furious” thanks to action director Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and martial arts coordinator Tony Leung Siu Hung. You may remember Sammo from his Rush Hour-like TV series Martial Law that ran during the late ’90’s.
Donnie Yen does a fine job as the sometimes stoic, sometimes fierce, kung fu master, but he is still far away from joining Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li on the Mount Rushmore of Hong Kong action heroes.
Ip Man is a high-energy, jaw-dropping kung fu film that Hollywood wishes it could make, but can’t.
Ip Man is now available on DVD.