Saturday, March 10, 2012

IP Man (2008)

                The story of Bruce Lee’s master IP Man is astounding.  This is what I long for in a martial arts film.  From the beginning you are taken straight into the time era of the late 1930’s in China.  Donnie Yen, who plays IP Man, should rightfully get some props for his performance.  The story is gripping and you really feel for the characters throughout.  IP Man is an honorable person who always tries to do right to those he is close to.  His sleek, modest personality is quite admirable.

Kam Shan-Chau
                Out-of-towners, led by Kam Shan-Chau (Fan Siu-Wong) wish to make money in Foshan which is known for its martial arts and home to IP Man.  Kam wants to defeat the masters of the martial arts schools so he may be granted permission to open a school there to profit off of.  He believes the town to be weak and an advantageous place to earn money.  He bests many of the masters in the town before being told IP Man is the prize to defeat if you think you are strong enough.  Kam being the arrogant and strong headed man he is marches up to IP Man’s home to challenge him to a fight.  The battle sequence is impressive as Kam ultimately loses and leaves ashamed.

                The story isn’t all about fighting; the Japanese invasion plot creates an intrigue that allows the viewer to peer into how the Japanese oppressed the Chinese.  IP Man’s home becomes a Japanese headquarters and his family is forced to live in poverty.  IP Man handles all challenges with a burden he knows his fellow Chinese will rely on him to a certain degree.  His friends help him to realize a way he can help to fend off the Japanese presence in Foshan by competing in General Miura’s (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) private tournaments.  However he only competes in it to avenge the death of his friend.  His friend fought and won it to win the mere prize of a bag of rice which at the time was most valuable to the starving Chinese families.  He was shot very tragically as he was leaving to claim his rice from the tournament and died.  IP Man was there to witness the brutality of the Japanese and fought to only win back the rice that was owed to his friend.  The moment in which he defeats ten Japanese fighters is a wonderful display of his speed and technique.  He claims the sole bag of rice and takes it to his fallen countryman’s home for his family.  It’s a moving scene that captures the spirit of right, wrong, and good will.

IP Man
                IP Man realizes through the tribulations of his entire fellow countryman, in Foshan, that his occupation no longer serves a purpose in the town.  Everyone is simply trying to survive and feed their families which IP Man at times struggles to do.  He is turned down for work many times and becomes depressed not knowing of a way to tend to his family.  His friend offers him a job at his factory but he turns it down as he doesn't like to owe others a favor, it’s the part of his character that you can’t help but fault but at the same time understand.  His friend gets attacked by Kam as he has resorted to stealing to make his own ends meet.  IP Man’s friend is unable to defend himself and must succumb to Kam’s wishes.  IP Man learns of a way he can become of use by teaching wing chun to his friends factory workers for use of self defense against Kam and his men.

General Miura
                IP Man is asked by General Miura to train his men in wing chun, IP Man’s fighting style.  IP Man refuses in the belief that the Japanese only want to learn this part of Chinese culture for a gain in war.  IP Man believes in the Chinese spirit and that the fighting style is more than a tool for fighting.  The General forces IP Man to fight him to prove his fighting technique shall not be undermined.  He is offended to think IP Man doesn’t believe the Japanese deserve to be taught wing chun.  The final fight with General Miura is staged in front of the town.  IP Man wins a short fight in which he dominates.  There is no long drawn battle which would have been too cliché and frowned upon.

                The camera work, which I always look for in a martial arts movie, is top notch.  The fight scenes are amazing and short enough to avoid the dreaded “ten minute fight scene of someone win already”.  The cutting is done well and you never get lost as the fight scene goes on.  When you add all the elements together you get a film that’s worthy of repeatable watches.  Watch this movie and allow yourself to get taken into it, you’ll feel the characters emotions and pains.  I’m not one to watch a martial arts film simply to see the showcasing of the fighters but also get a meaningful story as well.  I believe that’s not an easy feat but this movie accomplishes it perfectly.

                Rating: 10 of 10

-Behind the Scenes-
The work put into the film is very impressive and helps me to appreciate the movie even more.  Donnie Yen, to my surprise, didn’t even know wing chun, the fighting style used in the movie.  He practiced for eight months while learning over 108 techniques.  His rigorous work was even given applaud by wing chun masters.  He carried around that pegged wooden practice dummy everywhere he went during his training.  His quick learning really impresses.  The work and research he put in by studying IP Man’s person really makes me a fan of what Donnie did for the movie.  He went to IP Man Chun, the son of IP Man, to get the insight needed to correctly portray who his father was.  It’s inspiring and the wonderful part is his son was happy to help in any way.

                I found it incredible to know the Japanese General wasn’t a fighter.  Being an American I just assume since he’s Asian he must be able to fight, that’s a wakeup call for me.  He was simply an actor who never did an action movie.  He had some difficulty since he didn’t speak Chinese but he fit in with everyone else with his work ethic to correctly portray the fight scenes at a high level.  Fan, the northerner, really took on the convincing role of a macho type of person.  He never had done that before.  It was his first movie with Donnie Yen and he was extremely excited for that.  The female lead was in her debut movie as she was a super model originally.  She fit the appearance of a Chinese woman from that time era that really appeased the director or because she is a model.  I’ll leave that up to you.

                To discover IP Man was a popular figure in Foshan in the 1930’s is a neat trivia fact.  They even have an IP Man hall to visit there.  I’d certainly check it out.  I recommend this movie even more to any who haven’t seen it as it’s truly a martial arts epic.  The historical aspect of the film is also very accurate as opposed to what some reviewers may claim.  I was glad to get verification on that too.  The film makers strived with diligence to portray the history so people unfamiliar with it could learn as well.

If you enjoyed this review you may also be interested in the following:
IP Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (2010)

The labels just below can link you to similar posts about this one so check them out!

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