“Ip Man” is a 2008 martial arts film set in Foshan, Guangdong, China during the Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s.
The leading character is modeled after Ip Man, a Chinese martial artist known as the teacher of Bruce Lee.
The film was directed by Wilson Yip, and stars Donnie Yen, with martial arts choreography by Sammo Hung.
It is a co-production between China and Hong Kong. 108 minutes.
In 1935, Foshan is a hub of Southern Chinese martial arts, where various schools compete with each other. A master of Wing Chun, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) lives with his wife Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Hung) and his young son, training in martial arts without taking disciples.
Ip Man beats the challengers who tried to gain renown for beating him, such as Liu (Chen Zhihui), the master of Taishan martial arts school, and northern-style martial artist Jin Shanzhao (Louis Fan). After that, Ip Man’s house is inundated with people wishing to become his disciple.
In 1937, the Sino-Japanese War breaks out. In October 1938, Foshan is occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. Ip Man’s house is confiscated by the Imperial Japanese Army and used as their headquarters. His family is forced to live under the poverty line.
When Ip Man is working at a coal mine alongside Lin (Xing Yu), who is the son of a restaurant owner in Foshan and Ip Man’s friend, Colonel Sato (Tenma Shibuya) of the Imperial Japanese Army comes and says “if you win the sparring match with a Japanese soldier, I will give you a bag of rice”.
Lin and Liu challenge the match, but Lin is kicked to death by General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), a Karate master of the Imperial Japanese Army, and Liu is shot to death by Sato.
Ip Man is detained by the Imperial Japanese Army because he rebels against the army. Miura says to Ip Man “teach Chinese martial arts to the Japanese soldiers as an instructor, and your life will be spared”. Ip Man refuses it, and he instead chooses to have a match with Miura.
The storyline of the film is similar to “Fist of Fury” (1972) directed by Lo Wei and starring Bruce Lee.
The kung fu actions and mixed martial arts battles (Wing Chun versus karate) are exciting and worth seeing.
The film achieved commercial success, and the three sequels were produced. So it became the first film in the tetralogy.