After receiving pretty round about critical praise, "Ip Man" finally hit the US after making fans wait for 2 years (in fact, the sequel is already out in China) and in a fairly shitty DVD form. Its alright though, because "Ip Man" is here in all of its astonishing semi-historical fight filled drama glory.
Master Ip (Yen) lived a peaceful life in Foshan practicing Wing Chun privately and living with his wife and young son. He is generally considered the best Martial Artist in the entire city and despite a handful of challenges from outsiders and other masters willing to learn, he is left alone to his own accord. When the Japanese invade China in 1937, Master Ip is forced to live in destitute with his family eventually taking up work. His resistance against the Japanese military force and his undying morality for humanity eventually lead him into having to make an ultimate choice...betray his people or perish.
"Ip Man" carries very enthusiastic energy that blends a historical film, a kung fu film, and a dramatic moral tale together into a spirited and memorable film experience. Although some of the more historical transitions seem oddly placed and structured (going from his pre-Japanese occupation life to his post occupation life is a bit sudden), the story itself and the message it carries about the soul of what martial arts is about rings true.
With a solidly subtle and oddly charismatic performance from Donnie Yen as Master Ip, a visionary eye for blending modern techniques into a traditionally crafted historically placed kung fu film, and beyond impressive choreography from the legendary Sammo Hung, most everything about "Ip Man" reigns true to its influences whilst remaining uniquely valid in this day and age. Despite some awkward moments that try to keep us moving the with time jumps and an obvious name drop at the end that, yes Master Ip did help train Bruce Lee, this film is paced well and executed better.
"Ip Man" works like a classic kung fu film with lots of historical context and slightly deeper meaning than most. Great characters and beautiful visions from behind the camera make this a modern martial arts film one has to see to appreciate. I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel!
BONUS RANT: Most of my complaints of the film have to do with the version I have (including some oddly structured English subtitles) that are not of fault of the film. It really bogs down the overall experience one should have with "Ip Man". Here's to hoping for a slightly better version to his the US in the future.
Written By Matt Reifschneider