Martial-arts movies live or die by their fight scenes, so we'll give credit where it's due to Wilson Yip's sanitized, factually loose biopic on the legendary Wing Chun teacher Ip Man. Whenever this grand master, played by quick-kicking superstar Donnie Yen, unleashes a flurry of fluid body blows, you feel your pulse start to race; one sequence, in which Ip battles no less than ten soldiers to amuse a Japanese general (Ikeuchi), is a primer for how to stage oh-my-God mass combat without descending into incomprehensible chaos. (This is what you get when you hire the "Fat Dragon" himself, Sammo Hung, to choreograph your kung-foolery.) Yen's handful of duels do delight; it's everything surrounding them that feels tired and trite.
Clichs aren't avoided, they're amplified: If there's even a minuscule chance of employing lower-than-low-angle shots, gratuitous slo-mo or cut-rate Chinese kitsch for effect, Yip not only exploits the opportunity, but slathers these elements on a thousandfold. Everything from the direction of actors to the dialogue ("It's not your style...the problem is within you!") signifies the work of a filmmaker who favors easy audience-baiting reactions over dramatic momentum. Doesn't the man who would later teach Bruce Lee how to kee-yah deserve better than a chopsocky Punch-and-Judy show?
Cast and crew