Movies & TV / Columns

From Under A Rock: Ip Man

February 24, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Ip Man
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
From Under A Rock: Ip Man  


Last year, I went on a real martial arts movie bender and wanted to share a few of them with Aaron. This is the first of a few that I’ll be showing him as I loved it when I first saw it a year ago (and actually watched the whole trilogy).

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Fritz Lang’s M. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Ip Man.

Ip Man
Released: December 18th, 2008
Directed by: Wilson Yip
Written by: Edmond Wong
Donnie Yen as Ip Man
Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as Miura
Fan Siu-wong as Kam Shan-chu
Chen Zhihui as Master Liu

Michael Ornelas: Martial arts are cool, and we haven’t talked enough about them, so that’s why I picked this.

Aaron Hubbard: They certainly are. Donnie Yen is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for, but I haven’t done much to watch his movies. This was a pretty great one.
The Essence of Martial Arts
Michael: I know it’s very hippie of me to say, but my favorite thing about this film is how zen Ip Man is about his Wing Chun. His mind is centered and he fights for the right reasons, and that’s kind of the central theme of martial arts as an artform, not just as film subject matter. Yen was the perfect choice to play this character because he seems to embody these ideals in the role.

Aaron: For sure. The purpose of most martial arts is to avoid fights though self-defense. Ip Man embodies that for most of the movie, only using it when he is pushed by people who want to be aggressive and show their dominance. I really enjoyed the house fight at the start (especially when his son rolls through on his trike), and how easily he seemed to handle the situation. Especially since he barely did any offense, except to humiliate his opponent. But of course, he does eventually challenge someone outright, once he’s pushed far enough.

Michael: He also challenges ten people outright. At once. This moment wouldn’t have been so meaningful if he were like Kam Shan-chu, walking around challenging everyone in sight in order to prove superiority. He’s humble, he knows how good he is, and he wields his power responsibly, until he’s pushed to the brink and feels the need to avenge a fallen friend. But even in that fight, he still manages to intertwine his defensive fighting style and being the aggressor (because against so many, you’re going to need to take the initiative).
Unhealthy Embellishment
Aaron: As a martial arts drama, Ip Man definitely succeeds in being an entertaining movie. I enjoyed most of what was presented; however, this movie is also a biography, and it is largely bunk. Ip Man never experienced poverty, his original home was never so lavish, and he definitely never challenged Japanese generals in World War II. And from that aspect, it’s hard for me to really like this movie. It’s presented matter of factly, while having the historical accuracy of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I think I’d rather see a more true to life biopic, or if they want to make this kind of movie, have it not be about Ip Man.

Michael: That’s a fair stance to take. It can definitely be harmful to portray a narrative differently than how it actually went down because so many people will point to the film as their point of reference, while failing to pick up a book and look further into it. That said, I watched this expecting the typical “Hollywood embellishment” (despite it not being a Hollywood film) because it seemed like a martial arts film first, and a biopic second. It didn’t detract from the experience for me, but I can totally understand where you’re coming from.

Aaron: I think what really bugged me was the level of anti-Japan sentiment. Now don’t get me wrong; Japan, China and the surrounding countries have a lot of history of animosity and war, and some of that is totally deserved. I’m definitely not going to argue that Japan in World War II was some misunderstood well-meaning empire or that the Chinese shouldn’t want to defend their land and their culture. But… this movie was made in 2008. And it’s a little hard for me to swallow a movie where Yen is talking about how Japan doesn’t deserve Chinese martial arts because they’re so evil. There’s a level of propaganda to this that just irked me. That said, I can mostly look past it; the movie is still a great piece of martial arts entertainment.
Despite Being a Jerk, Kam Shan-chu Was Awesome
Michael: My favorite supporting character in this movie was Kam Shan-chu, the Northerner who came to Foshan to challenge all the martial arts masters so he could build his reputation at the expense of others and open his own school. Fan Siu-wong’s performance really hooked me and I loved every second he was on screen. Not to spoil too much, but he’s a big part of the second film, and doesn’t betray what they’ve established here. Watching him get humbled by a feather duster was probably the comedic highlight of the otherwise very serious film.

Aaron: That actually makes me happy and excited for the sequels. Fan Siu-wong has a presence that just belongs on screen, and even when he was being humiliated he still exuded a badass aura. I thought he’d be done after that first fight but it was cool to see him still kicking around even when the film would justify leaving him behind for the occupation plot. I’m not at all familiar with his work and want to see more of him.

Michael: He was the star of a movie from the early ‘90s called Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki that I’ll pick for the column down the line. It’s a hyper realistic martial arts film with some truly ridiculous effects, but it’s a blast.

Aaron: Despite some misgivings, I had a lot of fun with Ip Man. A lot of that boils down to just how good Donnie Yen is, not just in the martial arts scenes, but in portraying the sort of peaceful warrior Ip Man is shown as. The action is great and the drama is pretty good too.


Michael: The 10-on-1 fight scene alone gets this movie a slightly higher rating for me. It’s a really fun martial arts drama, and as Aaron said, Donnie Yen is amazing.


Aaron: Do any of the sequels have a scene that lives up to that?

Michael: I honestly don’t remember, but I really liked the second movie. The third one, I had mixed feelings about.

Are you excited for Ip Man 4, which is beginning production in just a few weeks?

Next week:

Aaron: Well this next pick is going to be nice and happy. I’m largely over the Marvel Netflix shows, but Jessica Jones really was great in season one. Hopefully the second season delivers as well.
Jessica Jones
Michael: I guess it’s time to get on it. Looking forward to it, as I love Krysten Ritter after her stint in Breaking Bad. And I watched the first season of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 for her, and didn’t hate it.

Aaron: It had no advantage in hooking me, as I barely knew what Jessica Jones was, but it did a damn good job of selling me on her.

Which Marvel Netflix season has been the strongest so far?

E-mail us at [email protected]
Follow us! @FUARockPodcast
Like us on Facebook!
And follow Michael on Twitter! @TouchButtPro

Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise, Evil Dead II, Planet of the Apes, Wet Hot American Summer, Tombstone, The Core, American Graffiti, León: The Professional, Steel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Logan, Tusk, Ghost in the Shell, Twin Peaks, The Artist, The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, Day of the Dead, Them!, Borat, The Handmaiden, Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, Watchmen, Metropolis, A Knight’s Tale, Children of Men, It’s a Wonderful Life, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Contact, Before Sunset, Bernie, Edge of Tomorrow, Boogie Nights, M, Ip Man

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 1,000 films. I recently saw and reviewed Black Panther (spoiler-free), but you can also check out in-depth reviews on the first seven MCU movies as we get ever closer to Avengers: Infinity War.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Ip Man kicks ass. Donnie Yen is one of the best to ever get into the martial arts movie business, exuding an easy-going charisma but also delivering truly amazing fight scenes. The drama, while heavily embellished, is actually well-told and compelling, paving the way for some truly incredible fights. Especially Ip Man against ten men. We definitely recommend it if you're a fan of the genre.