Sunday, January 31, 2016

Movie Review: Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man Facing the Japanese Fighters
In preparation for the new Ip Man movie, "Ip Man 3," I decided to watch the original "Ip Man" via Amazon Video. It had been a while since I had watched a Hong Kong martial arts film, and this one did not disappoint!

I originally became interested in Hong Kong martial arts movies when I started studying kung ku in 1994. Through a few other students, I vaguely became aware of Jackie Chan's movies. In 1995, when "Rumble in the Bronx" was released in the United States, I think I saw it 5 or 6 times in a few weeks!

Here's what I liked about the movie:

  • Donnie Yen: I had never seen Donnie Yen in a starring role before "Ip Man." I was thoroughly impressed by his acting and athletic abilities. 
  • Cross-style fighting: I really enjoyed watching Chinese styles vs Japanese styles, or at least what appeared to be fight choreographer Sammo Hung's interpretation of Japanese styles.
  • Cinematography: The director made excellent use of color, or sometimes the lack thereof. His confrontation between Ip and 10 Japanese fighters (partially captured in the photo at top) exemplified this striking aspect of the movie.
  • Themes besides fighting: As a father of young children, I enjoyed seeing that even a martial arts master like Ip Man had to balance family life with professional and community responsibilities.
  • Action and pacing: I thought the movie progressed nicely. I didn't get bored watching it. 
  • Price: At $.99 at Amazon, it couldn't have been much cheaper! That's great value for my money.
Here's some areas that could have been better:
  • Historical inaccuracy: It seems that most of the movie is fake. If you read various accounts, what happened in the movie did not occur in real life. Obviously the Japanese invaded China, but the major life events shown in the movie did not seem to happen to Master Ip and his family. That really didn't bother me, however. I did not expect to watch a biography, and if viewers decide that the movie is just a story, then the history isn't as large a factor.
  • Lost opportunities: (Mild spoiler, if you haven't seen the movie.) I would have liked to see the northern kung fu bandits fight in the Japanese tournament. The leader was such a good fighter, and it would have made the movie that much more interesting.
  • It helps to like martial arts movies: "Ip Man" isn't like "Crouching Tiger" or a Hong Kong movie that breaks out of the martial arts mold to appeal to a broad audience. I liked it because I am a fan of the genre, but there's not much there for the average movie goer.
I have tickets to see "Ip Man 3" in the one theater showing it near me, so I will post a review afterwards. Prior to that, though, I hope to watch "Ip Man 2" through Amazon Video. Check the blog later this week for both reviews.

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