When I sit down to watch a kung fu flick, I expect ridiculous action, a killer soundtrack, and a main character that has the ability to kick everyone’s asses, but won’t because of a higher sense of morality, spirituality, or justice. Now you might be thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a description of Batman Forever!” Shut up your face.
Ip Man was really more than simply a Kung Fu flick; it was a quasi-biopic concerned with the life of Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art of Wing Chun (No, not Wang Chung, but like you, I also love that band). While this film, upon cursory research, has severe historical and biographical inaccuracies, the basic premise behind it stands tall:
A modest Chinese master of Wing Chun loses his fortune to Japanese occupation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). This master and his family have to struggle to obtain food. Through various ties, the audience comes to find that the Japanese General in charge of the local occupation loves to watch Chinese kung fu against Japanese karate, and as a reward for winning, the fighters receive rice. Master Ip eventually gets involved with these matches, pretty much beating the piss out of everyone (seriously, he takes on ten dudes at once). The General notices the Master, and of course, wants his shot to prove dominance.
Now, I left out all kinds of details because this film, as opposed to the epically terrible DIEner, has quality of substance, and I don’t want to ruin it for any potential viewers. If that isn’t good enough for you, take to heart that the title character was actually the teacher of the one and only, Bruce Lee!
That being said, I really enjoyed this movie. The acting was above average, the action well choreographed and shot, and the soundtrack did, in fact, satisfy my urges to hear those really twangy Chinese sitar-like instruments. Not to mention, it was an unexpected period piece that gave a similar aesthetic as Schindler’s List, which is interesting because the two films are set within ten years of one another, only a few thousand miles away.
Critically, the film has received 12 awards and 10 nominations for everything from best actor (Donnie Yen as Ip Man) to best action choreography. In fact, even IMDb gives it a viewer rating of 8.2, which is on par with the best foreign language picture of 2009, Slumdog Millionaire (8.3). Now, passed the high and mighty, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
The fight scenes were fast, but thankfully used steady cameras to pick up on the action (hear that Michael Bay? STEADY!). This really let the fluidity and natural power come out of watching the movements of the fighters. There were a few obvious “strings attached” bad guys flying through the air, but in my mind, those are forgivable. When you view, and enjoy this film, watch out for when Ip Man gets on a roll with his fury of punches; the sound effects are priceless.
Personally, I give this film 4.5 out of 5 bears.