Yip Man (2008)

(Netflix Streaming, September 2015) I’m definitely not as good an audience for martial arts films as I was a decade ago, because even if I can recognize Yip Man as a good example of the form, accomplished in its fights yet with something more on its mind than a simple succession of combat demonstrations, I can’t muster much enthusiasm for it.  Set largely against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of China before and during WW2, Yip Man is, more than anything else, a showcase for the affable and quiet power of Donnie Yen, who plays the title role as a charming but utterly competent martial arts instructor.  The fights grow in ferocity, from playful sparring to bone-crunching mortal combat.  The cinematography is too-often similar, though, and some of the narrative points aren’t made with any subtlety at all.  A comparison with The Grandmaster, which focused on the same character’s story, is almost instructive: While The Grandmaster led nowhere, it did seem to do so in far more lavish style, and as a result may linger in memory a bit longer than Yip Man even if its narrative flaws were deeper.  I actually liked Yip Man; I just expected that I’d like it even more than I actually did. 

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