Ip Man is a great martial arts film that is loosely based on the life of Bruce Lee's teacher and first Wing Chun master Ip Man. I do like matial arts films but they tend to be a little weak when it comes to the story, however this is not the case here. I say it is loosely based on the life story as I have read that some of the elements are over the top and not entirely accurate but I do not know what is truthful as I know very little about the actual man. I think this does not matter as I tend to enjoy a film for what it is and not if it is accurate to the inspiration. If it is enjoyable tot watch I tend to like it.
The story follows the titular hero, played by Donnie Yen, as he goes about his life in the famous Foshan province of China. He has his family and a good life style but every martial arts master there is interested i fighting him as they are aware he is the best in the area, much to the dislike of his wife. When the Japanese invade his life changes completely and he goes from being content to homeless and with out money. He soon finds a job and discovers the Japanese are looking for fighters to compete against their own soldiers. Ip Man eventually becomes involved for his nations pride.
The most important positive in this film is the martial arts displayed. I saw Wing Chun described in the excellent BBC series Mind, Body & Kick Ass Moves
as the AK47 of fighting techniques. Meaning that once the fighter hits you, you continue to be hit until you stop moving, and Ip Man is the first film I have seen that really conveys this aspect of the style. It is not overly flashy but effective, small movements that are ment to stop people dead. When ever there is a fight it is amazing to watch, from the individual duels to my favorite scene where the hero fights ten Japanese soldiers at once. The skills show really took my breath away, the speed and skill was mesmerizing.
Donnie Yen is superb in the role of Ip Man, having seen an interview with a much older Ip Man I can say that Yen nails his movement style and not just inthe fight sequences, he is just as good in the way he walks and talks. I have always been a fan on Yen since I first saw him in Hero and have been slowly picking up his back catalog. He is has great skill with the martial arts but is also a competent actor. Here this is most evident with the way he brings life to the character in the quieter moments and makes the audience care about him when he is not fighting.
Wilson Yip does a fine job with the directing duties, he may have issues with some of the pacing but he does a outstanding job with the action. He manages tot put the viewer into the fights but with out making you miss any of the overall movement. This is one of my biggest issues with action scenes, the director will try and put in close to the action but you feel like you are missing the spectacle because you are too close. This is not the case here, and I must say the action scenes and the way they are filmed are some of the best I have ever seen.
On the downside however the films pacing does tend to drag a bit when there is not any action happening. I am not saying that it is bad, you just tend to notice that things have slowed down and you are waiting for the next fight to happen. I also had issue with a few characters that seem to be there for a fight scene and then disappear when you are expecting more from them, for example the wandering master who turns up to be beaten and then is gone. This is not a major issue but it is still worth mentioning. I will say however the DVD version did seem to have some sound problems but this may just be my copy.
In conclusion this is one of the best martial arts films I have seen in many years and if you are a fan of action films it is worth your time checking out.