Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3 shrt pgrphs: Ip Man

2008, Wilson Yip -- netflix

Contrary to popular belief Ip Man is not a film about a superhero lawyer defending the layman from intellectual property thieves, but rather a quasi-historical martial arts film about the Wing Chun master who went on to train many masters, most notoriously Bruce Lee.  The film has, for some time now, been listed at the top of "What's New on Netflix Canada"'s "Highest Rated of All Time" list (which I think is decided as a result of the user "star" ratings on the sit).  True, there's an unhealthy 2:1 ratio of shit-to-good product on Netflix Canada, but I find it hard to believe that Ip Man, at best a mediocre production is the best film of all time on the site.  (I note that Ip Man 2 is second highest rated).

The film takes place during the late-1930s in a popular martial arts school region.  Ip Man is established as a retired wealthy master, also a loving father and husband, who has earned the respect of everyone in town despite his refusal to train anyone else.  When a stock 1960's thug and his gang of goons come to town, easily beating down every other master in a convoluted get-rich-quick scheme (which involves opening up a school in the very same town and steal all the business from the other school as a result of his display of dominance) it's up to Ip Man to drive the ne'er-do-wells from town, which he does, achieving infamy amongst the locals.

Then the Japanese invade, the town is thrown to ruins, all the schools are destroyed, everyone's wealth is taken from them, and they have to work in the coal mines for food.  Select volunteers are taken to participate in bloodsports to earn more food, most wind up beaten bloody, or dead.  Ip Man takes exception and, at first, refuses to fight the General that now runs the town, but then, of course does, and wins, triumphantly.  It's essentially a souped up version of early 90's Van Damme fight films, equally poorly acted (save for the always congenial Donnie Yen), although the Sammo Hung guided choreography is quite swell.  It's so wildly fabricated and so blatant in its attempts to mythologize Ip Man into something he really wasn't that it damns the film, and the man's legacy, with ridiculousness.  Apparently Wong Kar Wai has a long-in-production Ip Man feature called The Grandmasters, to be released in China at the end of the year.  That I would like to see.  This one, not only is it not the best film on Netflix Canada, it's also entirely skippable.