In an environment where movie goers are bored with excessive wire work and tired of seeing martial arts favourites Jackie Chan and Jet Li explode - albeit brilliantly - again onto the screen, Ip Man presents as a refreshing and exciting change of course in Hong Kong film.
Ip Man has won a score of various awards, including the Golden Horse Award (the Chinese equivalent of the Oscars) for best action choreography. It is a semi - biographical film loosely based around Bruce Lees Master and his early years. The intention of the producers was to break the story into three segments, exploring social influences and the development of the character and legend; this being the first in the series.
The film is set in the 1930s in the town of Foshan - a hub of Chinese Martial Arts competition and schools. Viewers are introduced to an unassuming Ip Man, who is both independently wealthy and masterful in the Wing Chun style, preferring to spend his days training and socialising with friends.
After the brutalisation of the Japanese, Ip Man's family’s wealth is torn from them and he witnesses racial hatred, nationalistic strife, and warfare. The Martial Arts have been dishonoured, with masters forced to fight for food or for the release of their family members. The Chinese people are portrayed as downtrodden and taken advantage of while the film showcases some of the horrors Japanese occupation had upon the culture.
Although previously restrained when faced with these realities, when Ip Man is forced to fight he is enraged, battling with a fury which piques the interests of the Japanese General.
Obviously more fights ensue resulting in a the addition of firearms and Ip Man being shot in the final scenes. (Its quietly revealed that he escapes to Hong Kong and introduces the setting for the next film in the series.)
Ip Man is an entertaining explosive classic martial arts movie, complete with all the favourite movements such as flying drop kicks and finger jabs (which are missing from modern marital arts movies.)
Donnie Yen plays Ip Man brilliantly, going to the extremes of modelling the eating patterns ( one meal a day) and harsh training regime in order to portray the legend as closely as he could muster. The magnificent action sequences are choreographed by the legendary Sammo Hung; utilising Ip Man's descendants and film footage as pure sources in order to gain authenticity.
The solid character development of Ip Man is matched with ( as far as this reviewers knowledge) empathetic historical background research; making the film of interest to both purist martial artists and those who are seeking a different perspective on the impact of Japanese Occupation in the late 30's.
Theatrical Poster via Wiki