3 out of 5 stars
I left the cinema with a strange feeling of dissatisfaction after watching Ip Man, Donnie Yen’s latest kung fu flick.
The film talks about the life (and brief) times of the title character, a practitioner of Wing Chun Martial Arts whom was considered the most highly skilled martial artist whose disciples would include the legendary Bruce Lee.
The movie, if you excuse the cheesy pun, literally packs a punch. Donnie Yen portrays Ip Man as a modest family man who is always ready to offer a helping hand but would never asks for any in return. The opening fight scene between Ip and a fellow master is a masterpiece showcase in this genre. The viewer has no doubt that the challenger is out to probably humiliate Ip, but instead, he was offered hospitality by Ip. And strangely, this increases my curiosity of how good Ip really is. And the fight does not disappoint. While most fighting movies aims for the absurdity these days, the opening fight scene demonstrates how control and discipline can be even more impressive. Ip whom easily outmatched his opponent could have easily beaten him to a pulp not only held back most of his punches; he modestly thanks the opponent for doing the same afterwards.
It was at this time, when my friend turned and told me “I love this movie!” I eagerly concur, but once again I spoke too soon.
The second to third act of this movie unfortunately derailed from the intial set up. The Japanese invasion came along and all in Fo Shan goes to hell. And all these eventually led to a series of ‘misunderstandings’ which results in some meaningless over the top fight scenes which turned Ip turn from the humble kungfu master into a one man Mortal Kombat-ish fighting machine. All these of course are an overly elaborate lead to the final showdown between Ip and the Japanese General Miura, whom surprise surprise, happens to be a highly skilled kung fu Master in his own right.
Oddly enough, I was more than ready to ‘forgive’ all that went wrong with the movie if this last fight was played out … respectfully. And I humbly offer my thoughts on what totally went wrong with the third act.
The scene that personally I feel could have saved the movie was when General Miura came in to offer Ip a meal on the night before the big fight; a mirror of the opening scene of the show don’t you think? I would rather have Miura and Ip use the scene to state their respect for each other’s skills in Martial arts and I would imagine that the two are opposite sides of the same coin entwined in the middle of WW2. But alas, Ip sprouted some speech on Jap bashing, and later on, bashed up the Japanese General. *YAWN!*
You probably think I’ve put too much thought into a simple kungfu movie, but what I’m trying to say is what should have been a great film on the spirit of wushu, ends up as another generic chop-socky flick, and to that, I lament.