Combustible Celluloid
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With: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Ka Tung Lam, Siu-Wong Fan, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Yu Xing, Chen Zhi Hui, You-Nam Wong
Written by: Edmond Wong, Chan Tai-Li
Directed by: Wilson Yip
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 10/29/2010

Ip Man (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Wing Chun of Desire

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ip Man showcases director Wilson Yip and star Donnie Yen at their best. A biopic of the legendary Wing Chun martial artist who went on to train Bruce Lee, the movie is as slick and as fictitious as can be, full of coincidence and elaborations, but it's enthusiastic, respectful, and very satisfying.

In the village of Foshan in the 1930s, the streets are crowded with martial arts schools, and Ip Man is a modest kung-fu master. He proves his mettle when a brash challenger comes to town, beats several teachers, and then loses to Ip Man. Then, the Japanese invade and take over Ip Man's home, forcing him and his family to live in poverty. Ip Man discovers a Japanese officer who appreciates martial arts and offers bags of rice to Chinese who can best him in battle. But Ip Man continues to hang onto his nobility and dignity, which results -- of course -- in a huge showdown.

Director Yip gives this movie everything he has, and it looks amazing. He shoots for maximum clarity and maximum use of space, taking into account all the various period sets and locations. And Yen, who often works best as a kind of stoic, lets loose just enough to turn Ip Man into a sympathetic and admirable hero. The martial arts here are top-notch, fast-paced, clean, beautiful, and with a powerful impact. Sammo Hung choreographed the fight scenes, and then went on to play a supporting role in the equally great sequel, Ip Man 2.

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