Monday, September 9, 2013

Ip Man

Ip Man is a 2008 action film that tells a portion of the life story of real life badass Yip Man. Yip was a grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu and people traveled for many miles to study under his tutelage. He was known by Kung Fu aficionados worldwide, but became super famous when one of his star pupils took the stage name Bruce Lee and became the first martial arts film stars, the first Chinese actor to launch a career in the west and…well…became Bruce Lee.  There is Ip Man and Ip Man 2, but only the latter includes Mr. Lee. The former, rather, tells the story of a particularly formative and difficult period in Ip Man’s life. You see, as a Kung Fu grandmaster, considered one of the historical pillars of Kung Fu, Ip Man enjoyed a life of wealth and celebrity. Like modern celebrities, people just gave him shit and he lived the high life with his family in a big palace in Foshan, China and things were peaceful and awesome. Then, the Sino-Japanese War broke out and the Japanese didn’t care about Kung Fu or his status. They threw him in the mines like everyone else and he began to start and truly struggle.
This nearly broke him, but then he began to see how the Japanese soldiers were truly abusing his fellow Chinese brethren and, in classic Clint Eastwood fashion, he just wasn’t going to stand for that.
He heard about how the Japanese actually had plenty of rice for the folks of Foshan, but were holding onto it because they heard Foshan was a famous epicenter of Kung Fu and they wanted to watch the monkeys dance. They gave out meager rations and basically starved the folks of Foshan and said they would give extra rice to any of the so-called Kung Fu practitioners who could defeat their Japanese martial artists. The Japanese guys were trained killers and the Chinese guys were worked all day in the mines and suffering from malnutrition, so, basically, it was a bluff and the Japanese guys were just kicking the shit out of the Chinese guys. Well, when Ip Man heard this was going on, something snapped.
Legend has it that he walks in and says he won’t take on one of their guys, but insists on taking on at least ten. He takes on all comers in that fight and many to follow and takes folks to school left and right, giving the rice out to his starving brothers and sisters. His legend freaking explodes. The movie ends with the end of the war on the cliffhanger of Ip Man winning a big fight but leaving it badly injured. No, it’s not a spoiler. Folks, there’s a sequel.
Just about everything about this movie is fantastic. The production design is beautiful. The sets, settings and intricate detail to the interiors and costumes are out of this world good. The cinematography is also truly fantastic. The fight choreography was done by Kung Fu movie legend Sammo Hung and won all sorts of awards back in China. The fighting is so good that cats were injured left and right during the filming. Dude got kicked in the face full on (a moment they thankfully caught on film and incorporated into the scene) and Donnie Yen, who plays Ip Man, had his left eye sliced open by an axe. An axe y’all! Yen also spent years, that’s right, YEARS, training and undergoing a strict diet just so he could authentically portray the grandmaster. In other words, they do a ton to make it gorgeous and super authentic and it pays off. My sole complaint in the whole thing is that they dwell on the war and destruction stuff a bit much. It should have been trimmed down a bit and seemed to belabor the point. I get it, war is terrible, you made your point, now move on with the story por favor.
 That said, this truly is my only complaint. The rest of the movie is really fantastic. They somehow make it feel modern and traditional at the same time. It’s beautiful to watch and the fight scenes are truly fantastic. So, if you dig on action flicks, skip the Michael Bay crap and pick up Ip Man. Donnie Yen for life!


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