Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie Review: Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man (2008) directed by Wilson Yip

In southern China circa 1935 the province of Foshan was famous for its martial arts schools. One street had all the school. The masters had their students practice outside to entice prospective students. Just outside of town is a man so great at kung fu he doesn't even need to teach. His name is Ip Man. He lives in a fine mansion with his wife and son and plenty of wealth to spare. Occasionally a master will come to spar with him, though Ip always wins and is most gracious to his sparring partner (though his wife disapproves). One day, a gang of rough and tumble martial artists comes to town and challenges all the schools. The gang's leader beats all of the masters and comes to Ip Man's house for the ultimate showdown. Lots of fun kung fu action ensues.

But that's only the first third of the movie. The film takes an abrupt tonal shift away from comic kung fu fighting as the Japanese invade China (putting the World in World War II). The Chinese are oppressed and a Japanese general starts a program where the locals can try out their Chinese kung fu against his Japanese martial artists. Victorious locals can win a bag of rice, a valuable commodity under Japanese occupation. Ip Man is not interested in the fights until one of his friends disappears after going to the fight.

The movie has enough story to keep a viewer interested and the fight scenes are evenly spread throughout the film so it's never long before another entertain battle erupts. I did find the tonal shift a bit jarring (though not nearly as jarring as the title card at the end explaining how the Japanese left in 1945 after China won the war!). The fights are well choreographed with straightforward photography so viewers can see the action. Another surprise to me was Ip Man's historical status. He was an actual person and went on to found a school in Hong Kong where international superstar Bruce Lee learned kung fu. I imagine this movie is highly fictionalized and have no idea which parts are true and which false. It's certainly very entertaining.


  1. This is one of my favorite martial arts movies. Ip Man 2 has some great fight scenes in it as well. There are a couple more, but apparently, the official third movie (with Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip) comes out this year, and it looks pretty cool.

  2. It's good to hear from you. I will definitely check out Ip Man 2, this movie was a lot of fun.