Like most people in the United States, the first time I saw Donnie Yen was in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Storywhere he plays Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior who fights storm troopers armed with laser guns by hitting them with a stick.
As I watched Yen fly around the screen, a friend called him “the guy from ‘Ip Man'”. At first I thought it had to be some kind of Asian superhero movie, and it kind of is.
“Ip Man” is the semi-biographical story of Ip Man, a grandmaster of wing chun, a style of kung fu from southern China, and the teacher of former UW student Bruce Lee.
The film is set against the backdrop of the Second World War-era Sino-Japanese War and is set in Foshan, where Ip grows from a highly respected wing chun teacher to a poor coal miner. But when his fellow benders begin to disappear, Ip comes face to face with a Japanese general who challenges him to a public match.
Like any good origin story, Ip must decide whether to step up and accept his responsibility to be a symbol and icon for the oppressed people of China, or keep his head down and protect his family.
Even with a fantastic supporting cast that includes Gordan Lam, Fan Siu-wong, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, and Tenma Shibuya, Yen is undoubtedly the star. He plays Ip to perfection, portraying him as a stable and calm character who is passionate about his craft. However, as the film progresses and the wing chun master must face opponents from all sides, his anger can be felt just below the surface, waiting to emerge.
And then it does. If you’ve seen anything about this movie, it’s probably some of the iconic fight scenes from Youtube. Director Wilson Yip continues the tradition of fantastic martial arts camerawork in Chinese cinema, and the choreography assembled by Hong Kong action film veteran Sammo Hung and Tony Leung Siu-hung is incredible to watch.
Want to see Ip fight a master with a sword using just a feather? No problem. Can we see him in a 10-on-1 fight? Sure. Can we look at a totally different type of martial arts, like karate? Sure thing.
Yet the film also touches on deeper themes than martial arts, giving a brief glimpse into the brutal Japanese invasion of China. Ip must decide how to protect his family while being an inspiration to his people.
Although the story is slightly fictional, it presents a compelling narrative that will keep you hooked long after the fighting is over.
Contact Associate Sports Editor Andy Yamashita at [email protected] Twitter: @ANYamashita
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