Ip Man, a film loosely based on the life of Yip Man, was released in theaters in 2008 and starred Donnie Yen as the martial artist. The film takes a number of liberties with Yip’s life, often for dramatic effect. Yip’s oldest son Ip Chun appears in the film and served as a consultant for the film. The film focuses on Yip’s life during the 1930s to the 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film is the first to be based on the life of Yip.
One of the most astonishing displays of martial arts action on film in recent years, Wilson Yip’s Ip Man chronicles the life of the eponymous Wing Chun master (Donnie Yen), who would later become instructor and mentor to Bruce Lee. Fans of Ronny Yu’s Fearless, with Jet Li, will notice several similarities between the biopics–like Li’s Huo Yuanjia, Ip Man is a tireless instructor whose life, largely consisting of training and jaw-dropping spar sessions with any and all, is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Japanese military forces in 1937. He soon draws the interest of the commanding Japanese colonel (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), who exploits the starving locals by forcing them against his trainees for bags of rice. Ip must then pit his extraordinary Wing Chun against the colonel’s karate for his own dignity, as well as the soul of his people.
Were Yip’s film simply a series of set pieces featuring Yen’s incredible fighting skills, Ip Man would rank among the best martial arts films of the past three decades; the fight choreography, by Hong Kong legend Sammo Hung and Tony Leung Siu-hung (with consultation by Ip’s own son, Ip Chun), offers the same sort of eye-popping, rewind-required fist and footwork that Ip’s disciple, Bruce Lee, inspired in the ’70s, and Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Tony Jaa displayed in subsequent years; a battle between Ip and 10 black belts, in particular, requires multiple views to absorb the speed and deftness on display. But Ip Man also succeeds as a historical drama inspired by the harsh realities of the Japanese occupation of mainland China, as well as an acting showcase for Yen, who embodies Ip’s formidable physical and emotional strengths. The American DVD release of Ip Man from Well Go offers many of the same extras found on the Region 2 UK presentation, including interviews with Yen, Yip, Hung, and most of the cast, plus deleted scenes, an impressive tour of production designer Kenneth Mak’s sets and location work, and several brief making-of featurettes.