By David Peterson
In December of 2008, Hong Kong actor, Donnie Yen
(“Hero”, “Shanghai Knights”, “SPL”
) mesmerised cinema goers in China, Hong Kong and throughout south-east Asia with his on-screen portrayal of legendary Wing Chun
patriarch, Grandmaster Ip Man
in the film of the same name. Smashing box office records everywhere (over $100 million in China, more than $25 million in Hong Kong), ‘Ip Man’
went on to become one of the biggest Chinese films of the last 10 years, picking up “Best Picture” and “Best Action Choreography” awards in the recent ‘2009 Asian Film Festival’
along the way.
But how much of the film is fact, and how much of it is pure fiction? The storyline is indeed based on the true-life exploits of the late Grandmaster, and Wing Chun Kuen is represented extremely accurately, not having looked so good on film since “Prodigal Son” back in the early 80s. Missing are the usual special effects and “wire-fu” that have dominated Chinese action cinema in the past. Instead, we see fight sequences where the action is fast, furious and largely (in the case of the Wing Chun used by actor Donnie Yen), very realistically portrayed.
So, as far as the action is concerned, under the brilliant direction of veteran action star, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (“Prodigal Son”, “SPL”, “Enter the Dragon”), the Wing Chun system looks great and the fight scenes are very memorable by virtue of their reality-based representation, even if there is a little of that “chop-socky” razzmatazz going on here and there. However, the historical accuracy of the film is another matter entirely.