Ip Man, directed by the great and powerful Wilson Yip, is the story of famed Wing-Chun martial arts expert – Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen). The film is set during the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. Ip is forced out of his wealthy home and lifestyle to live off of scraps. In order for himself and his fellow countrymen to survive, they must utilize Wing-Chun and other Chinese combat styles to duel and defeat the Japanese, who aim to affirm their superiority at martial arts.
First and foremost, let’s set the record straight – Ip Man is the gold standard of martial arts films. It puts almost all Hollywood movies in this genre to shame. I feel this is because all (or most) of the actors in this film had some formal training of martial arts. They were therefore able to execute the required combat sequences with little to no need for sneaky camera tricks or stunt doubles. It is also possible that the crew of Ip Man may have been stuntmen themselves. In contrast, Hollywood movies containing hand-to-hand action sequences make use of dubious editing and camera techniques (shaky cam, quick-cuts) to create the illusion of genuine action. The use of stunt doubles in these films is also shockingly prevalent.
All the action in Ip Man was fast-paced, organic and followable. There were hints of comedy in some of these sequences, but they never felt shoehorned in. My favorite sequence was by far the one where Ip takes on and beats 10 Japanese men all at once – a famous clip that has been watched on YouTube millions of times over. I also liked how the film didn’t portray martial arts with broad strokes; there were subtleties to how each character fought, depending on the region where they grew up and the techniques that they had mastered.
On the negative side of things, the film felt a bit like a soap-opera at times through its use of sad music playing in the backdrop and characters welling up and occasionally over-acting in their scenes. But, this is a very minor complaint. Ip Man, overall, is a fantastic action movie. For non-fluent Chinese speakers, I strongly urge y’all to watch this film with subtitles and not dubbing.