Ip Man 2008 Review: Donnie Yen’s The Best Contemporary Martial Arts Movie
Ip Man is the award winning film adaptation about the life story of Ip Man. The grand master of the Wing Chun style of kung fu and sifu (master) of legendary kung fu superstar Bruce Lee.
Ip Man (Diep Van 1) deserves a place among the very best of not only contemporary martial arts movies. But martial arts movies of all time. The story, action, characters, time, and setting all work together to create an unforgettable epic. While the styles and conventions of martial arts movies are on full display, what emerges is an absolutely riveting story, and not just because of the action. Furthermore, there’s something full circle about the reveal that Ip Man was Bruce Lee’s instructor. Not only did Ip Man fight fascists. He was also seminal in the development of the icon who made martial arts movies (phim vo thuat hay) such an international phenomenon.
As the film’s title character, Donnie Yen (Chung Tu Don) deftly balances the intense and expected martial arts sequences with the humility and modesty that also seemed to define the man. There’s a subtlety and nuance in what he’s doing as an actor that’s easily overlooked amid all the kicking, punching, and fighting with swords, axes, and sticks. It’s a movie that seems to reward repeated viewings. And it’s little wonder how Ip Man launched a franchise of sequels. Exciting and engaging from beginning to end.
Wing Chun grandmaster Ip has an amazing wife, plenty of money. The most beautiful house in town, and a blossoming martial arts academy. But when the Japanese occupy his hometown of Foshan during the Sino-Japan war (1937). Ip, like the rest of the locals, is forced into hard labor and brutal sparring matches for the enemy’s amusement. His incredible skills catch the eye of the Japanese Colonel, Mr. Miura, who wants Ip to teach Wing Chun to his soldiers. When Ip refuses, he faces the most intense challenge to both his training and his honor.