179 of 200 people found the following review helpful
In the tradition of Jet Li's "Fearless" and "Fist of Legend", comes the fourth collaboration between the Wilson Yip-Donnie Yen tag team who also brought us the phenomenal "Shah Po Lang" in 2005. "IP MAN" is based on the life of the man responsible for making the Chinese kung fu style of "Wing Chun" (invented by a woman), which is up to this day, is among China's most revered style. Yes, Ip Man is also the man who has a huge number of talented disciples--most notably, the late great Bruce Lee.
In the 1930's, the Chinese province of Fo Shan is a thriving place of martial arts schools, with various sects of different styles. Fo Shan is said to be the place where the famous Wong Fei Hung learned his art and therefore this place has a reputation. Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a very accomplished martial artist but he keeps to himself, maintains a low profile and quietly spars with friends at home. But after an acknowledged victory over a fighter from the Northern quarter, Master Jin (Fan Siu Wong), Ip Man becomes an instant hero in Fo Shan.
Time passes and in the late 1930's, following the Japanese invasion, Ip Man's property was confiscated by the Japanese army and his family is forced to live an abject existence. One day, general Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), a fanatical practitioner in Karate, witnesses the skills of this Wing Chun master. The general becomes obsessed with Ip man, and demands that the Chinese style of Wing Chun be taught to the Japanese army. But Ip man refuses and instead challenges Miura to a duel. Ip Man has to uphold the benevolence of his art and protect Chinese dignity. The battle for national pride is about to begin....
The one thing I know for sure is that Ip Man is indeed Bruce Lee's first teacher in Hong Kong for many years, and that Ip man was indeed asked to teach the Japanese; the rest of the significant historical details in this biopic is a little questionable. Yip and screenwriter Edmond Wong does get some details right, but please keep in mind that this is an action film first and foremost--it is hardly a historical drama. The action direction by Hong Kong legend Sammo Hung is indeed amazing, and it is the film's main draw. The story has the usual elements of honor, family, loyalty and pride and offers very little that is fresh--but this doesn't mean that it made the film any less exciting.
There is very minor characterization involved. The film has three acts, and the first has Ip Man's status in the Fo Shan province. He is a business man and he doesn't teach his art, there are hints that he used to compete, but he decided to keep a low profile because of his wife, Cheng (played by Lynn Hung). His relationship with his wife and son is somewhat estranged at times because of his love for sparring--she throws a tantrum whenever he fights; Ip Man is a humble man, and shows his wife the respect due her. The second act portrays the effect of the Japanese invasion on the people of China, and on the life of Master Ip and his family--which leads to the film's min encounters. While Donnie Yen may indeed lack the necessary acting ability to portray him dramatically--he sure has the presence of a highly trained martial artist. Director Yip did the right thing in focusing more on fights than dramatic impact. There are also some touches of social commentary seeing as how some Chinese prey on their countrymen and they only look out for themselves.
As I've said, Sammo Hung's action choreography is indeed phenomenal and it sure helps when you have a cast of real-life martial arts practitioners and action-honed actors such as Yen, Louis Fan and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, who holds a Kuro Obi in Judo in real life. Sammo Hung maintains a nice balance between finesse, realism and downright brutality--the fights are very intense and very focused. It is a mix of the usual wire-fu and occasional acrobatics. Highlights include, Ip Man taking on 10 Japanese fighters in one time, the fight between Fan Siu Wong and Yen is quick but exciting, complemented with some subtle doses of humorous cracks. The fights are exquisitely shot, with multiple camera angles in a perspective view to close ups, so you can see all the hard-hitting action. There are also times when an opponent is thrown in the camera's view and I thought this added a lot of style and intense attitude. Wilson Yip and company knows how to shoot fight sequences and their skill proves the film's showstopper.
The action encounters are nicely placed and Wilson Yip needs to be credited for maintaining an excellent pace with its balance between action and drama. While this film is historically inaccurate, for the most part, it does succeed as an action film--a very well done at that. The film does ultimately fail as a character-driven, true-to-life biopic. Donnie Yen's "Ip Man" is more about his capabilities as a fighter than who he really was as a man, which is no doubt due to fact that it wanted to maintain a China-friendly film. The film's structure more of a popcorn action film than an emotional biopic of a man who made his mark in using his fists to unite the Chinese people. It plays too fast and free to fully realize the film's potential as a "based on true events" type of deal.
Despite some flaws in the script, and the filmmakers relying too much on the audiences' good beliefs rather than developing Ip Man as a man than as a caricature of a folk hero; (no doubt an attempt to match Wong Fei Hung in "Once upon a Time in China" and Huo Yuan Jia in "Fearless") to portray him as an inspirational role model/saint. "IP MAN" is a truly exciting film which is just full of action and the energy it exudes is just so much fun to watch. I am rather very interested in seeing as to what Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen would bring "IP MAN 2", which would hopefully show more of his experiences in Hong Kong (which may include his time with Bruce Lee). Of course, by that time, I've read that Wong Kar-Wai's version of "IP MAN" will be released and will hopefully have more historical significance as well as action thrills.
Still, this film comes with a "Highly Recommended" rating from me, it does rule as martial arts action film. [4 ½ Stars]
Note: The original language in the film carries is Bi-Lingual with both Cantonese and Japanese Languages.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
Donnie Yen's crowning achievement? Very possibly. I've always thought Donnie was the paragon of martial artistry on film... I've also admired how he remains relatively true to the style of the hero in question, if that is relevant (See Iron Monkey, for example.). The story of Ip Man is similar to that of Jet Li's "Fearless", but to be honest, Ip Man the movie is better.
The action scenes are works of art. Donnie portrays Wing Chun with a good degree of authenticity to the style (considering, of course, the unavoidable dramatic, cinematic flair). Donnie's technique is crisp, rapid, accurate, potent. The choreography is splendid. There is no significant wire work here, just economical, brutally efficient combat-- which is what Wing Chun is about. Truly homage to the spirit of Wing Chun. As a practitioner of Wing Chun, I can truly point to this movie, show it to my friends who don't know, and say: "That's Wing Chun, that's what it's about."
The story of Ip Man works well with Donnie's acting style. Ip Man is a martial artist conflicted in his priorities-- reluctant to teach, fascinated with the art, struggling to balance family responsibilities with that of friends and comrades who get in trouble. Forced by the Japanese occupation, near destitute, to feed his family and defend the honor of his friends, he finally fights and teaches to defend the honor of China, as well as uphold the spirit of kung fu.
I was a little nervous watching this film-- someone has posted virtually all the fight scenes on YouTube. I was afraid that after seeing them, that this film would be a disappointment. I had already seen the fight scenes... and kung fu flicks aren't exactly award-winning drama. But Ip Man didn't disappoint. The story was still compelling, interesting. The fight scenes in context were more delicious than on YouTube (and the large widescreen, framerate and resolution upgrades didn't hurt!) Donnie shows appropriate remorse, conflict, passion, and resolve. It is understated-- like Donnie really tried to be true to the historical Ip Man. It works well, and shows me that Donnie has really matured as an actor. Hey, I know Donnie is never going to win an Oscar for his acting.. but you know what? He really shows some maturity as a professional here.
This double disc edition is nice. Lots of special features-- deleted scenes, interviews, production trailers, photo galleries. I got it based on other reviews that the single disc version had dubbing issues. I watched the Cantonese version (options for Mandarin also on this disc) with English subtitles... and if it was dubbed, I couldn't tell. I don't speak Chinese, so can't tell you how accurate it was, but it sounded fairly authentic, and I hear enough Chinese to be able to say that much, at least. The subtitles had one or two spelling errors, but minimal grammatical problems. It seemed fairly true to the story's intent, was easy to follow, and kept me interested.
I'm biased. I'm a Wing Chun practitioner and a Donnie Yen fan-- but I must say this has superseded "Hero" as my favorite kung fu flick. It's at least in the same class as Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" for unique, superlative martial arts. The story and acting are good-- and while the storyline is a variation on a cliched theme for kung fu flicks, this one is well done. If you enjoyed "Fearless" (I would rate it three stars)-- you'll like Ip Man so much better, I think. If you practice Wing Chun (2 million worldwide!)-- you have to own this movie. If you like Donnie Yen-- this might be his masterpiece.
Addendum: In deference to W. Kim's excellent review above, I took the liberty of renting and watching both movies "Warriors Two" and "Prodigal Son" as other movies that accurately depict Wing Chun as a martial art. Both movies are your stereotypical Hong King B-movie "Wuxi" style soap opera kung fu flick. Warriors Two is better storywise-- Prodigal Son, at least via the subtitles, didn't make sense much of the time. Ah, but the reason why we watch such movies: "Prodigal Son" was the more accurate Wing Chun movie. It depicts Wing Chun through the "Wuxi" B-movie filter, but has a lot of fairly sound representation given this understanding. Prodigal Son was Wing Chun with lots of non-Wing Chun thrown in, or Wing Chun in a deep cat stance, or with some Longfist twist and things like that. Just flashy show. All in all, neither depicts Wing Chun as "Ip Man" does-- Ip Man is not stylized, although it, of course, depicts Wing Chun in an idealized way-- that is, the ultimate master of Wing Chun does every technique perfect and has every technique work perfectly. But "Ip Man" is the only movie I have (still) seen that I can point to as "authentic" Wing Chun.
88 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2010
As a fan of Chinese cinema for over 30 years, I've seen (and own) a lot of movies. However, whilst there have been dozens of memorable ones, few stand out as masterpieces in the Wuxia genre - 'Ip Man' is one such film, an instant classic that sets a new benchmark for action cinema. Wilson Yip, Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen have totally hit the mark in this outstanding motion picture, crafting a story that, although not sticking entirely to the facts (well, after all, it IS about entertainment!), works perfectly to tell the story of a real life Chinese hero, the late Grandmaster of Wing Chun Gung-fu, Ip Man. The camera work, direction and the performances of the entire crew make this a film that grabs the audience and holds them in its clutches from start to final gut-wrenching finish (all very good reasons why this film won the 'Best Picture' and "Best Action Choreography' awards in the 2009 Hong Kong Film Awards). Donnie Yen gives what I feel is his finest performance ever, whilst Sammo Hung's action choreography is briliant, showcasing the art of Wing Chun in a manner never before done so well. The soundtrack is also beautifully matched to the tone of the movie. I for one cannot wait to see 'Ip Man 2'
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2012
Ok let me start my review this way. I'm a 49 year old black woman that grew up on Kung Fu Theater. I was a bit of a tomboy back then and I guess that part of me kinda stuck around because I still like "guy" movies-- everything from Spartacus, Platoon, Goodfellas, and of course, Kung Fu. Over the years I've watched Bruce Lee to Ong-Bak and everything in between. I'm in love with this movie. .seriously not only did it have a message, but the fights were like that-- and Ip Man was such a cool character while he was kicking butt. . awesome, absolutely awesome. If you like this kinda movie, look no further you've arrived.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2009
A stately big budget period biopic, loaded with well choreographed, shot and edited fight scenes, of the martial artist widely credited for bringing Wing Chun kung fu from southern China to Hong Kong in the early twentieth century, and whose concepts and training ideas were adapted by his most famous student, Bruce Lee, who promoted those ideas as, "the way of the intercepting fist," in his book, "The Tao of Jeet Kun Do." The film clearly emulates the scope of the Jet Li film, "Fearless" - which was about the redemption of the martial arts fighter, Hua Yuan Jia, who (at least in the heavily fictionalized "Fearless") overcame a egotistical brutality to leave behind a similarly impressive legacy in the worldwide spread of the JingWu school of martial arts and general physical education (a kind of YMCA offering kung fu training as well as other forms of physical education in several countries). The film is also noteworthy for Donnie Yen's atypically restrained performance as Ip Man, a wealthy martial artist, who lived in a town filled with good teachers, and resisted the Japanese colonial government in southern China, when they pressured him to teach japanese soldiers, resulting, ultimately in the historical Ip Man having to flee occupied China, and emigrate to Hong Kong, where he eventually began teaching to make a living (something most martial arts film fans might know going into the film).
However lacking the character arc Ronny Yu and the makers of "Fearless" imposed on the life story of Hua Yuan Jia (critics rightly point out Donnie Yen's Ip Man is nothing less than a living saint, and doesn't evolve at all as a character throughout the film) the filmmakers wisely make up for it by developing secondary characters drawn from the community Ip Man lives in before the Japanese invasion. Some are forced to become collaborators with the occupation government, others are forced into matches with Japanese martial artists, others join tongs like the Axe Gang, which preyed on chinese civilians during the long period of the occupation and the chinese civil war. All of these lives intersect with the newly dispossessed and impoverished Ip Man as he tries to survive, feed and defend his young wife and child, against the depredations forced on the southern chinese by the Japanese occupation, and eventually finds himself taking on challenge matches against japanese fighters, at first, to get food for his family, and then later, as a matter of principle.
That aside, the film is chock full of good-to-great martial arts fight scenes, including friendly (and some not so friendly) matches between members of the Fo Shan Mountain's large community of martial artists before the Japanese invasion, and increasingly desperate battles afterwards, between struggling workers and gangsters, starving martial artists and japanese soldiers, and publicized challenge matches against Japanese martial artists set up to further humiliate the oppressed population. Though I do think fight choreographer Sammo Hung, and Yen didn't quite manage to get across the efficiency and sheer finesse exhibited by real masters of the style (possibly better seen in two earlier wing chun-based films he directed, "Warriors Two] and "Prodigal Son"), Hung deserves a lot of credit for choreographing the increasingly brutal fight scenes in a way that shows how Wing Chun differs from other styles of chinese and japanese martial arts. (A much more detailed discussion of the major fight scenes is up at [...] [...] for those with a strong interest in the technical side of these things.) I particularly liked the performances of Yen (again, far more disciplined and restrained than usual), Louis Fan as a northern stylist, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as a Japanese General, Xing Yu and Chen Zhihui, as Fo Shan Mountain martial artists.
"Ip Man," is definitely worth seeing, and while it it doesn't quite match the dramatic strength of "Fearless," the writers and filmmakers have crafted an interesting enough, well produced narrative to actually sit through the segments between the fight scenes, which is saying a lot these days. "Ip Man, Part I" has made pretty serious money (a sequel covering Ip Man's years in Hong Kong has been greenlit - I'm already looking forward to seeing who wins the big fight over who gets to play the young Bruce Lee) and I hope, along with "Fearless" it leads to more big budget period kung fu films with (hopefully) better and more interesting narratives than the usual "theatre of revenge" fare. Judging from all the big budget period war movies (like "Red Cliff I and II," "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon," "The Warlords," "Seven Swords," "An Empress and The Warriors," "A Battle of Wits" coming out of China these days, it's clear the Chinese are willing to spend the money ... there's a good chance we'll also get more films like "Fearless" and "Ip Man." Certainly there are no lack of candidates, (Wong Fei Hung, Yang Luchun, the Chen Family, Dong Haichuan, Yueh Fei, .. the list goes on) for cinematic canonization in the long, long history of Chinese martial arts.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2010
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
IP Man movie was great as expected. Beware buying the blu-ray version as it does NOT work on some blu-ray players. I had an issue when it would not get to the Main DVD Menu, all the trailers played but could not get to the Menu Option (Play etc.). I thought something was wrong with the DVD and returned it for replacement (great job Amazon). But when replacement had same problem I contact Panasonic as I thought it was bad but Panasonic WAS aware of th issue with that title. To get past the menu, ie, to play the movie I had to press "1" on the remote to play "2" for Special Features, etc. Otherwise movie itself is great.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2010
With all of the special effects going on in Hollywood right now, Ip Man returns to the core of Martial Arts. With very little wire work done throughout the movie, Donnie Yen once again establishes himself as a true master of the Martial Arts. As a longtime fan of this genre I can say with no uncertainty that Ip Man is one of the best, if not the best, movie to portray any Martial Art and most importantly provide a true interpretation of Wing Chun on the big screen. The fight sequences are beautifully choreographed by non other than Sammo Hung and are brought to life by the passion of the actors. Donnie Yen portrays Ip Man so well that it is almost as if he becomes the man himself. Ip Man is one movie that any fan of the Martial Arts genre should own, no excuses.
61 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2009
OK, I was originally going to give this a much lower star rating, but didn't want people to mistaken it as a negative review of the film itself, because it isn't, the film is a GREAT martial arts film. My low rating is the DVD itself. First thing I noticed is that the subtitles neglected to subtitle the words in the beginning credits. Now I'm not talking about the names, I'm talking about the first paragraph after the names right after you see him practicing Wing Chun, which tells the audience about the city and how it's known for being the origin of China's Nan Tian style of martial arts. And for that reason, it attracts martial artists from all over China to establish dojos and to exchange martial arts culture. It goes on to say that today Fuoshan (the town in the film where Ip Man is from) have become known as "THE TOWN" of martial arts. If you can't read Chinese, you won't know what that entire paragraph reads, and that's stupid because it's kind of important to the story.
The second thing I noticed is how poor the quality was. It's not so bad that it's unwatchable, but it's FAR worse than most DVD's I've owned.
Then the thing that made me stop watching this was the audio. For some reason they decided they didn't like the original audio stream and replaced it. But the first thing you'll notice is the volume. It's EXTREMELY low, you'll have to crank your system all the way up if you are to hear anything.
Then the next thing you'll notice is the bad syncing of the lips and of the fighting sound effects. The reason for this isn't apparent to those who don't know Chinese. But I do, I understand some Cantonese, which is a dialect of Chinese spoken most commonly by the "common" people, mainly from Canton. That is the language most of the people speak in this movie, except the Japs of course and those fighters from the North who spoke Mandarin. However, this is the reason why they redid the entire audio stream including the sound effects. They changed the audio from Cantonese to all Mandarin. I don't know why, perhaps this version was printed in China and they consider Mandarin the "official" dialect and kind of look down on Cantonese, Hakka, and other Chinese dialects.
To those who don't know the difference, this sucks because now the audio is too soft and the syncing is bad (you see a hit, then hear it, or vice versa) and they neglected to add back in some of the little verbal gestures Chinese people are known to make (like going "mmm" instead of actually saying yes, they did this in the original movie, but they omitted a lot of it in this print, instead, it's just silence).
But to those who understand Chinese, it also sucks because it takes the authenticity away since the film's locale's native language is Cantonese, so in real life, they would have been speaking Cantonese, not Mandarin, and people know this. That's why they had the inhabitants of this city speaking Cantonese and the fighters from the North that came down to challenge them spoke Mandarin. That is how it was and that is how they wanted to portray it. Now everyone spoke Mandarin and it's pretty annoying.
Either that or the Cantonese audio stream is so jarbled that I don't understand it. All I know is that when I first watched this movie, I understood almost all of it since I know Cantonese. When I bought this DVD, I couldn't understand any of it and had to use the subtitles... Not to mention I could barely hear it.
I don't know, the movie is a great movie, it is kind of like Fearless, but a little more historically accurate, Fearless was VERY inaccurate in terms of historical accuracy, this was a bit better, but the fighting is very different because this is Wing Chun, which is purely a close range fighting technique, which is where almost all fights end up anyhow so it's also the most practical of all martial arts in my opinion. You will almost NEVER get into a street fight where your opponent will stay a leg's length away from you so you can do Tae Kwon Do style kicks at them. That is completely unrealistic and exclusive to competition style fighting. In real fights, your opponent will tend to want to close the distance any chance he gets. So Wing Chun which focuses on close in, short arm fighting is perfect for that.
I suggest you watch this film, but I really would like to find a better print than this one, I know it exists because I've seen it not too long ago, a friend had it, but he doesn't have the box or anything and doesn't know what version it is.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Really, damn! In the realm of martial arts cinema, it really doesn't get more compelling than this movie. IP MAN, riveting and strewn with electrifying martial arts sequences, propels Donnie Yen to that summit of Asian action cinema (scooch over, Tony Jaa). IP MAN tells the semi-biographical story of the grandmaster of Wing Chun and, later in life, mentor to Bruce Lee. IP MAN presents a historical human drama, set in the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the story draws you in, but I think this has more to do with Donnie Yen's powerhouse performance more than anything else. I agree with those who say that this is Donnie Yen's finest work.
The harshness of the Japanese occupation will draw out hisses. It's hard not to sympathize with the populace of Foshan as lives become reduced to a state of poverty so abject that starving men volunteer to fight for the Japanese general's entertainment, all for a single sack of rice (should they win). Ip Man himself, widely regarded as the best martial artist in Foshan, finds his skills useless under Japanese rule and he struggles to support his family. Donnie Yen as Ip Man is grace under pressure, cultured and principled and self-deprecating (and, okay, maybe a bit detached). It takes a wanton act of brutality to turn him into an instrument of vengeance. And when Ip Man finally loses his cool... well, it sets the stage for a sequence of pure assownery. Donnie Yen's wing chun is dynamic and exciting, and he's so fluid in action. I have to say, at this point, that whoever came up with the wonderful score deserves a lot of credit. The score not only adds dramatic impact to the story but lends even more tension to the combat scenes. But you'll hear in the bonus features that even longtime practitioners of the wing chun discipline are raving about Donnie Yen's technique. It's surprising to learn that, before IP MAN, Donnie didn't know too much wing chun. He trained in it for the nine strenuous months leading up to the film's shooting.
Donnie Yen gets a great supporting cast: lovely Lynn Hung (in her film debut) as Ip Man's long-suffering wife (she loves her husband, can't stand it when he fights), Simon Yam as the cotton mill's distinguished owner and Ip Man's friend, and Fan Siu-Wong as Jin Shanzhao, the scruffy, over-aggressive martial artist from the north who challenges - and annihilates - the best martial arts schools in Foshan (until, in a thrilling contest, he eventually gets spanked by Ip Man). And if you don't absolutely end up loathing the sadistic Japanese colonel Sato, then actor Shibuya Tenma didn't do his job near well enough.
Ip Man early on is reluctant to take on students, and it isn't until the Japanese invasion that he starts teaching the basics of wing chun to the bullied cotton mill workers. What I appreciate is the touch of realism that went into the scene in which the bandits return to the mill and the workers initially apply what wing chun they've learned but then quickly go back to cowering when they realize that they're still not cut out for serious brawling.
My favorite moment has to be Ip Man simultaneously taking on ten Japanese fighters. But, oddly, my second favorite scene is when the fight between Ip Man and a challenger is put on pause when Ip's young son comes wheeling around in his bicycle to remind his dad that mom said not to break things in the house. This funny little moment was so unexpected, but it was a breath of fresh air, and it makes me like the movie that much more.
There is some contrived melodrama featuring two brothers we don't really care about, and there's plenty of Japanese bashing that goes on here. But, hey, it's a Chinese film, so a measure of nationalism is probably expected. I don't know how faithful this movie is to Ip Man's biography. I wouldn't be surprised if certain liberties were taken. But I look at this movie more as a martial arts fable, and whether the story strays from what really happened or not sort of gets swept under the rug when you factor in the excellent acting, the stirring martial arts, and the superior production values. Yup, I'm calling it: IP MAN is simply a great movie.
The Collector's Edition comes in 2 discs, with all bonus features available with English sub-titles. Disc 1: the film presentation; "Making Of" featurette (00:18:32 minutes); 3 Deleted Scenes (one of which informs us of Jin Shanzhao's final fate); the English trailer and the original theatrical trailer to IP MAN. Disc 2 contains: "Shooting Diary" - more behind-the-scenes footage (00:05:27), "Behind the Sets" of the cotton mill, the streets of Foshan, and Ip Man's residence; and nine interviews with cast & crew including Donnie Yen (00:22:07 minutes), film director Wilson Yip (00:23:10), actress Lynn Hung (00:07:48), and action director Sammo Hung who choreographed the martial arts sequences (00:08:02).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I rented this based on all the positive reviews.
So I'd like to extend a big thank you to my fellow reviewers.
I watched it, I loved EVERY second of it.
Fighting scenes that were out of this world.
A deep and touching story that evolved nicely.
What didn't I like?
Nothing, when it comes to martial arts movies this one is sheer perfection.
I'd write more but why?
If you love Asian film then you'll love this movie.