Review: Ip Man

I went in determined to slam the film, take it apart and tear what miniscule grain of merit it retained into shreds. (Partly because I would be reimbursed for it if it sucked.) So I guess now, I’ll have to award it double the credit for impressing me.

Ip Man rocks!

Why would I even watch it right? I’ve made it a personal rule for as long as I’ve remembered things, never to watch a mandarin flick in the theatres, i.e. I won’t pay to watch. Cos most of them are just disappointing. But this one, I was forced.

And it surprised me.

I don’t know the first thing about kung-fu but that’s the best kung-fu shit I’ve seen. But it’s so much more than that. To praise the film chiefly for its fantastic kung-fu action would be to undermine its humanity, its epic and its soul. Ip Man moved me, not least because of his ideals and his integrity. Even when pushed to the corner, he still withheld his honour and his courage to resist the atrocities of the enemy. He remained true to every drop of blood he shed on his final battlefield and though he was unjustly shot, he was victorious and pure. And I think the film was sufficiently eloquent in portraying that.

Historians have long lauded the study of history for the lessons it can teach us. I have been sceptical until very recently. In this film, that virtue cannot be more aptly illustrated. This little known fragment of Chinese history, the story of this simple ‘Chinese man’ as he humbly called himself, made accessible by the film, has served to remind us again the value of staying true to our ethics. And I think this is precisely what our disillusioned souls need. Unfortunately, that effect would only last us 5 minutes upon leaving the cinema.

Okay, he didn’t die but the reason I used the term ‘final battlefield’ is that he never ever saw kung-fu as a weapon for destruction. Although he went on to have many ‘friendlies’, seeing as he founded the Wing Chun martial art and went on to have many talented disciples, he had only ever ‘abused’ kung-fu in the name of vengeance against the Japanese. And then only because he was forced to, and incensed by the unwarranted bloodshed of his comrades. What he said before his final showdown with the Japanese general was inspiring: “I would never teach the Japanese kung-fu because they will never understand that kung-fu is tool for peace rather than a weapon for mindless violence and oppression of others.” (Something along those lines, I can’t for the life of me remember what exactly it was.)

I really liked how Donnie Yen managed to steal the hearts of the unsuspecting audience with a very subtle personification of the gentle, passive Ip Man and then convincingly manoeuvre that passiveness into an abrupt yet predictable (cos of his values) burst of indignance when presented with the unjust deaths of his comrades. Scenes of how gentle and respectful he was of his wife and child that juxtaposed with his anger later on gave depth to his character. It really gives you a sense of how idealistic and loyal he is as a man.

Oh and can I say that that shaven Japanese general is smokin’ hot!? Here, drool away!

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