Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man

Ip Man Review

Ip Man is a 2008 Chinese biographical martial arts film directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen. The movie succeeds as both a rousing historical drama and as an action flick.

It follows the life of the titular grandmaster and martial artist and focuses specifically on the Sino-Japanese War and its aftermath. As I said above, the movie succeeds in both genres. Let’s first talk about the historical one. The first half is action and the second is historical. That second half, although vastly different from the previous one, is so wonderfully executed with a lot of emotional heft. I adored its ending and I loved both the conflict at the end and its conclusion and overall explanation of what happened afterwards. It is a typical stuff seen countless times, but I liked this triumphant ending here as it is emotionally satisfying and so uplifting.

But of course the highlight is the kung fu action. I loved the action sequences in Ip Man as they are so beautifully realized. The choreography is amazing, the abundance of style is evident and the execution is almost flawless. I liked that the camera angles are so good here, letting you see all of the action perfectly. All of the styles are well explained and it is vastly entertaining and so riveting to watch. The highlights are the fight between Ip Man and the Japanese general Miura and the fight between the protagonist and Kam Shan-chu. The former is so dramatic and powerful while the latter one is so exhilarating and even comedic in tone. Yes, the humor here is present from time to time and I really enjoyed it as some moments can be quite funny.

The character development isn’t as great as I hoped it would be, but it is still pretty good. Ip Man is naturally the highlight and he is at first a one-note character, but he quickly showed his human side. I loved his family struggles as it shows how he, though such a powerful martial artist, is still a flawed human being. And I loved the dialogue between him and his wife about his inability to find a job. The wife is really good and their relationship is really sweet and touching, but also quite realistic. I loved that in the film. Miura is really good and Kam Shan-chu is so funny and memorable as this redneck brute.

Ip Man is visually a strong picture, but not as mesmerizing as I expected it to be. The scenery is too forgettable and the photography is overly dark, but it is still well shot, some sequences are quite beautiful and the camera angles are terrific during action. Wilson Yip did a fine job in the director’s chair and the acting is superb throughout with Donnie Yen in particular giving a respectable performance.

But there are some problems here and that is mainly the structure of the film. It does succeed in both of its genres, but it does so at the expense of the tone and pacing. The pacing is all over the place and the tonal shift in the middle is so jarring as it literally changes from action to drama out of the blue and with no subtlety whatsoever. Also, the film is predictable and no matter how satisfying to watch, it is still a familiar farce. And I expected more character work and even more emotion than I’ve got from the end product.

Ip Man has a jarring tonal shift, inconsistent structure and pacing and it could have been even better overall, but it is still quite a good film with fantastic action sequences that are so thrilling to watch and impeccably crafted, solid character development, good acting and it is a satisfying flick both as a historical biopic and as martial arts action.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Ip Man

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Posted in Action, Biopic, Chinese, Foreign, Historical, Martial Arts, MOVIE REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , .

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