is a 2009 film Very Loosely Based On
the life of Bruce Lee
's eponymous master.
Foshan in 1930s China is a place renowned for the number of martial arts schools in it, with the exception of the titular hero who wishes not to take in any disciples. When a troupe of upstart Northerners successfully beats up the other masters, though, it falls on Ip Man to defend Foshan's honor.
Fast forward to 1937, when the Japanese invade China
. His mansion confiscated by the Japanese, Ip Man is forced to shovel coal to feed his family and learns of matches the Japanese are staging between their karate exponents and Foshan's former martial arts masters. When a friend's failure costs him his life, Ip Man's vengeful demolishing of ten Japanese pugilists draws the attention of the Japanese General Miura. Ip wants no more of it, but when a group of bandits threaten a friend's factory, some of whom are all too familiar, it starts a series of events that spiral to a final confrontation between Ip and Miura.
If you are looking for an in-depth biography of the master of Bruce Lee, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking for a great martial arts flick with exceedingly tight choreography and likeable characters, you are in the right spot.
A sequel has been released end-April 2010 (very close to the UK release for another "IM2"
), focusing on Ip Man's attempt to propagate Wing Chun in Hong Kong after the war. In doing so, he finds opposition from other martial arts masters as well as the British.
A "prequel," The Legend is Born
, that doesn't even really qualify for In Name Only
status sometimes gets lumped into this franchise, due to the reuse of a number of actors from the first two films. It should be clear though, that this movie is not related to any of the Ip Man movies made by Wilson Yip.
Thankfully, A Third Movie, to be released in 3D is in development
, starring Donnie Yen
one last time as Ip Man was originally due for a 2013 release but on pace for sometime in 2015 at earliest, will bring a proper conclusion to the Trilogy.Note for Western readers
: The character name is rendered in traditional Chinese style, so "Ip" is the surname. Additionally, it is not a superhero name
. Please do not be confused.
This film and its sequel provide examples of:
- All-Loving Hero: Ip Man himself. He's forgiving, kind, and though he can kick your ass, he won't without a good reason. And he won't gloat and even though you insisted on fighting him and were thoroughly humiliated, he'll go out of his way to hide this from the populace.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Pretty much every martial artist, with Ip Man being a notable exception. Best examples being General Miura, a Four-Star Badass with Blood Knight tendencies, and Twister, an utterly vicious Western boxer. Also notable is Wong Leung, who grows out of it after some hard lessons.
- Artistic License – Gun Safety: The cop who pulls out a revolver in the first movie points it directly in Ip's face. Thankfully, Ip disarms him before something goes terribly wrong. Interestingly, Ip blocks the hammer and trigger, then pops out the cylinder of the revolver, showing that he has some basic knowledge of firearms.
- Asskicking Pose: True to genre convention, all the martial artists in the movies assume one before fighting.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Part of Ip's defeat of the Twister.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: General Miura throws down with three guys in his first appearance and takes them down without much fuss. Ultimately he is the only one who actually manages to land some real hits on Ip Man.
- Backstab Backfire: See In the Back.
- Badass: The eponymous character. Bruce Lee's master, mind.
- Badass Long Robe: Ip Man has one, and he is rarely seen without.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Big Damn Heroes: Training the Peaceful Villagers has been subverted, the factory workers are still getting their asses handed to them by the bandits - until Ip Man shows up and gives them the old what-for.
- Blood from the Mouth: Typically all defeated fighters show this.
- Blood Knight: General Miura's character is defined by a desire to pit the Chinese martial arts against his Japanese karate.
- Twister in the second only cares about fighting and proving his superiority, showing pretty much all of the negative connotations (propensity for violence, anger, arrogance) but none of the relatively positive traits (honor, respect for his opponents).
- Boring but Practical: Being a boxer, Twister doesn't use kicks or hand techniques like his kung fu rivals, instead relying on English boxing punches. However, thanks to his speed, incredible strength and sheer Ax Craziness, he still manages to beat Master Hung Lie-Nang to death with his fists, and nearly does the same to Ip.
- Boss Rush: Jin has a villainous version in the first movie, cutting through the masters of Fo Shan before facing Master Ip.
- Call Back: Early in the second film, Wong Leung asks if Ip has defeated ten men at the same time.
- Casualty in the Ring: Master Hung
- Chekhov's Gun: Sato's actual gun. Used first to kill Liu, then to play "bang bang" with Ip Man's son, then to threaten Ip Man, then to shoot Ip Man, then Li Zhao turns it on him.
- China Wins The War: The closing narration of the first movie describes China's defeat of Japan without mentioning the involvement of other Allied nations, including the atomic bombs, the Soviet invasion of Japanese-held China, or the American occupation of Japan.
- Colonel Badass: Averted with Sato, who most definitely is not cool. Miura, on the other hand, is a Four-Star Badass and textbook example of the noble Samurai Warrior.
- Combat Pragmatist: A number of characters, not least the titular hero, who can easily go from smiling genially like the nice guy he is outside combat to kicking your joints in and raining Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs on your face and head. Subverted with Zealot Lin. The sequel takes Ip's Pragmatism to another level. Twister is also a Pragmatist, doing things like repeatedly slugging Master Hung in the face when he refuses to let go of the rope or hitting Ip just as the bell rings.
- Ip learned his pragmatism the hard way. It took a forced 180-split from an elderly medicine seller to teach him that improvisation was acceptable in Wing Chun.
- Comforting Comforter: In one scene Ip Man is shown draping a blanket over the shoulders of his sleeping wife and son.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Both played straight and averted, where both the titular hero and General Miura can throw down with multiple opponents with ease but Master Liu, who had been winning at the one-on-one Japanese-staged matches, tries to take on three at once and gets his ass handed to him.
- Crapsack World: The city of Foshan becomes this during the war.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Most of the fights in that the titular character is in. The film was explicitly meant to glorify him and be all nationalistic, though, plus the choreography is superb, avoiding any potential boredom. The opponents he Curb Stomps usually were Curb Stomping their opponents before he shows up, also helping to reduce the boredom and make the wins more impressive. An arguably deliberate Lampshade Hanging occurs in the final fight against General Miura, where Ip Man caps off by pinning the other guy against a pole and going to town while scenes of his practice on a training dummy are interposed.
- Gang of Hats: The Axe Gang.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory: Ip Man accidentally kicks Twister after kicking has been banned in their match.
- David Versus Goliath: Ip Man versus the Twister in the second film is this very straight. The Hero may have got his Badass cred down pat earlier, but the Twister is not only physically larger, he had destroyed the Old Master who fought Ip to a draw and gleefully beat him to death in cold blood, so there is a definite underdog vibe.
- Defeat Means Friendship:
- Double subverted with Wong Leung. After Ip trashes him the first time they meet, the latter up and leaves. He comes back with three friends to try to defeat Ip. It's only when this fails that Wong asks Ip to accept him as a student.
- Played straight from the first movie to the second: The leader of the ne'er-do-wells from the first movie gets defeated by Ip in it, and in the second movie comes to his aid. He even credits Ip for helping to turn his life around.
- Dented Iron: Master Hung
- The Dog Bites Back: Inspector Li repays Col. Sato's cruelty by kicking out his knee and hobbling him while he's out cold and later by turning Sato's own pistol on him and blowing his brains out.
- Donnie Yen Is Going To Kick Your Ass: Seen in the above poster on the trope page, and here◊ and here.◊
- The Dragon: Colonel Sato is this to General Miura.
- Easily Forgiven:
- Jin in the second movie. Last seen by Ip as a bandit and gave the Japanese his location. Greeted as an old friend upon showing up (though his Big Damn Heroes moment certainly helped.
- In the same movie, Master Hung. Introduced as the Opposing Sports Team who basically tried to keep Ip from starting a kung fu school and got Ip arrested for rescuing his prize student. This changes after they fight to a draw and he faces off against Twister.
- Establishing Character Moment: The Twister from 2 calls Master Hung a "yellow piece of fat" early on, and only gets worse from there.
- Even Evil Has Standards: General Miura isn't pleased with Colonel Sato murdering Chinese Warriors who lose in the daily bouts for food:
Miura: This dojo is a place of Martial Spirit, this (holds pistol to Sato's treacherous head) has no place here; never bring it here again. Have I made myself clear!!"
- Evil Brit: Twister and the brutal policeman in the sequel were. Seems that being evil is a prerequisite to being a brit, which is a stark contrast to the Politically Correct History that's often portrayed. The British certainly were NOT that enlightened or innocent as is often portrayed, but a lot of the scenes in the film (particularly the copious officially-sanctioned use of Police Brutality to intimidate dissidents) dates back far before the film is set after said issues had been largely cleaned up (by WWII the British realized it was not a good idea to needlessly provoke their Chinese allies when both the KMT and CCP were calling for annexation and they themselves were heavily dependent on the anti-Colonial US for support, and even as early as the turn of the century police corruption on the scale we see in the film- particularly involving violence- was met with jail or worse).
- Also, it's implied that their British superiors weren't aware of the level of corruption and brutality, and bringing it to their attention is enough to get the head of the police fired. (Not that they particularly care about the Chinese, they just don't think it's appropriate behavior.)
- Extremity Extremist: Invoked in the second film, where the British make kicking against the rules after Twister takes a few good hits.
- Final Battle: Betweem Ip Man and General Miura.
- Flexible Tourney Rules: When Ip Man starts to win against Twister, the bloodthirsty Chinese-bullying british boxer, the referees "suddenly" remember that you're not suppose to kick in western boxing matches and call Ip Man on it; something they didn't bother to call Master Hung on in the last match when Twister was beating the sick and elderly Chinese Warrior to death.
- Foregone Conclusion: Everyone watching the sequel already knows that he would survive the Japanese invasion of China and become Bruce Lee's martial arts master. Ip will also definitely have to prevail against the Twister in the second.
- Foreign Wrestling Heel: The main villains of the first two films.
- Foreshadowing: In the second movie, Ip Man defeated Wong Leung who was fighting using a boxing stance. Fast forward to the later parts of the movie where Ip Man took on a British boxer.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Sato.
- Freudian Excuse: Jin tries to offer one as an excuse for his banditry.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Twister's boxing is brutally effective. Earlier subverted with the street fighting of Wong Leung and his friends, who get stomped by Ip.
- Harbinger Of Ass Kicking: When Ip rolls up his sleeves, someone is getting served.
- Heel-Face Turn: Jin in the second film.
- Henpecked Husband: Jin accused Ip of being one when he refused to fight him in his house.
- Oh the irony, Jin himself becomes one in the second movie, but to his credit he is also a loving husband and father.
- Honor Before Reason: Ip Man himself obviously, and surprisingly enough Miura, who honors the code of the warrior even towards his Chinese enemies.
- Ip rejecting the ten bags of rice after destroying the ten black belts. While he was obviously trying to make a point, as well as avenge Master Liu's death, you have to wonder just how many of his people Ip could've fed with all that rice.
- In the sequel, Master Hung offers protecting the honour of Chinese martial arts as the reason why he does not back down against the Twister.
- Hot-Blooded: Zealot Lin in the first movie, Wong Leung in the second.
- Improvised Weapon: Ip Man defeats a sword-wielding opponent with his wife's feather duster. He takes on Jin again later on with a long bamboo pole. In the sequel, he uses even more of these, such as wooden pallets and baskets/trays.
- In the Back
- How Zealot Lin tries to defeat General Miura, and fails
- Similarly, how Leung tries to take out Twister, with similar (though not as fatal) results.
- Interesting Situation Duel: The second movie has a fight atop a very rickety table, surrounded by chairs.
- Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted; Ip's knuckles are clearly bruised after he finishes dealing with the Japanese pugilists.
- Irony: With all its anti-Japanese sentiments, the heart-stirring theme of the film, swelling with Chinese pride is composed by Japanese composer Kenji Kawai, famous for his unforgettable musical scores for the Ghost in the Shell films and the Anime adaptation of the Visual Novel Fate/stay night.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In the first movie, Li, the police captain, exhibits this. His first scene in the movie consists of him denigrating Kung Fu and its practitioners, and when the Japanese arrive, he willingly serves as their interpreter, which includes persuading his fellow Chinese to take part in sparring matches against the Japanese (which is shown to result in the occasional Chinese death or humiliation). Ip Man even calls him out for being so willing to help the invading Japanese. Then, it's shown later, he's using what he gets from his interpreter job to support his family, and is likely to be the only one able to do so (the other shown members of said family are all elderly, children/late adolescent at most, or crippled). Not to mention, he hides Ip Man and his family from General Miura, and kills Colonel Sato for shooting Ip.
- Karma Houdini: Jin. In the first film he begins as an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy incarnate, becomes a bandit, and then sells out the location of Ip Man to the Japanese. In the sequel, he's treated as an old friend and is seen happily married with a child.
- Karmic Death: The cruel Japanese Colonel Sato, who had shot Master Liu to death earlier for losing against Japanese fighters, eventually gets killed by a shot from his own gun after it is wrestled away from him. By Li Zhao, who he had smacked around for no good reason.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Ip Man generally avoids direct confrontations and attempts to pass this onto his students.
I bet you can go up against 10 men
Ip Man: The best way to deal with it is to not fight at all.
Wong Leung: What happens if they have weapons?
Ip Man: (Briefly chuckles) Run.
- Kung-Shui: Jin smashes up some of Ip's stuff while the latter is merely dodging, before his son comes in, conveying a message from his wife to get serious. Ip does and prevents any more vases from getting broken.
Jin: (After breaking a vase) I'll pay for that.
Ip: You will.
- The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort: Twister laughs off the attacks of Master Hung's students, taunting their weakness, but properly dodges and blocks Master Hung and Ip's attacks.
- Lightning Bruiser: The Twister can take and dish it out well while still being fast enough to keep up with Master Hung and Ip.
- Lowered Monster Difficulty: Look closely at how the Japanese pugilists fighting Ip Man act, compared to those fighting Master Liu.
- Martial Arts Do Not Work That Way: Subverted. Ip's Wing Chun generally eschews showboating and kicks much ass, while more showy pugilists don't fare well, and the toughest opponent thus far is the Twister, who sticks to boxing.
- Martial Pacifist: Ip, unless provoked, anyway.
- Mook Chivalry:
- Averted in Master Liu's fight against three men.
- Played straight in Ip Man's subsequent fight against ten men. While it's difficult to fight effectively with a group that large, they certainly go down easier than the ones that fought Master Liu, and as a whole seem to wait their turn to go down with little effort. Though once their ranks thin, they do get a bit better.
- Mouthy Kid: Young Bruce Lee.
- Necessary Evil: Master Hung in the sequel. He is something of a Jerkass and Opposing Sports Team to Ip Man early on, but it quickly becomes apparent that his rules, fees, and attitude are necessary for the martial arts schools to remain afloat under British rule.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Jin's sword doesn't help him much against Ip Man. On the other hand, Ip has no qualms against arming himself.
- Noble Demon: Miura, who is more motivated by patriotism in his viciousness than sadism like his cowardly-subordinate Sato, shows respect towards his Chinese enemies, and is in his own brutal way an honorable, traditional Japanese Warrior.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Liberally used by the Japanese. The film doesn't bother hiding its nationalism. Two specific examples are Master Liu getting thrashed by three Japanese pugilists and Ip Man going to town on General Miura. Two examples in the sequal are Twister beating Master Hung to death, and Ip Man thrashing Twister's face towards the end of the final fight.
- Really, almost every fight in the first movie is incredibly one-sided leading to one of these... the only time it's averted is when the beatdown-er is a goddamn saint (... AKA Ip Man when he's not severely pissed off).
- Not Using the Z Word: While the different schools of kung fu are elaborately listed by their names, the name of the Japanese fighting style is never mentioned despite being painfully obvious that it's karate.
- Offhand Backhand: How General Miura Catches Zealot Lin Fighting Dirty
- Old Master: Deconstructed with Master Hung, as exhaustion starts setting in during the match against Twister.
- Also discussed by Ip Man himself, who tells a student that no matter how good he is, his abilities will degrade with age.
- Perspective Flip: An early part of both films involves a newcomer challenging established martial arts masters. Thing is? In the first film it's a villain doing so, who Ip puts in place. In the second, it's Ip himself who's the outsider. Pity that it was never commented on.
- Police Brutality: In the second film, a British policeman beats on editor-in-chief Kan.
- Politically Correct History:
- Averted when it comes to foreign behaviour; the first film doesn't try to whitewash wartime Japanese behaviour, while the second doesn't shy from depicting Western racism.
- Played straight in other instances. To be more Communist-friendly, the first film does not mention that Ip Man was a Kuomintang supporter who left for Hong Kong to escape the Communists, not the Japanese.
- Priceless Ming Vase: Averted twice.
- Though we see Ming vases at Ip Man's home, the thing that actually breaks during the fight with Jin is cheap dish.
- In the next scene Ip Man is being offered the best vase in his shop by a street vendor. The Law of Conservation of Detail would let us assume it will break later on, but it doesn't happen.
- Protagonist Title
- Pummel Duel: In the second.
- The Quisling: Li Zhao, who does not revel in his new position unlike many others.
- In a deleted scene his fellow villagers beat him to death for being a sell-out after he kills Sato.
- "Fatso" for the British in the second movie. Like Li Zhao, he ends up betraying his boss and helps the Chinese.
- Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Liberally used by the titular hero, as his preferred fighting style was Wing Chun which included a technique called 'chain punching'. Definitely some Flynning here as students aren't meant to do more than a few blows in a sequence, and definitely not to use it when closing distance.
- Reality Ensues: A few times.
- Master Liu, who's been kicking arse and taking names in one-on-one duels, tries to up the difficulty to take three karateka at once. It doesn't end well.
- Ip attempts Training the Peaceful Villagers so that his friend's factory workers can defend themselves against the bandits. It doesn't work.
- Ip Man beats Miura and stands around dramatically while thinking about the cost of the war. Then he is shot. This is a particularly good example, since the film made it very clear that Ip would be killed if he didn't throw the match, even showing Sato's hand edging towards his holster in the middle of the fight.
- In the sequel, Master Hung is an Old Master... which means he doesn't have the stamina to keep up with the younger Twister.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Many viewers complained about the supposedly "unskilled" Twister presenting such a formidable challenge to Ip when he handily defeated multiple karatekas and Gen. Miura in the previous film. What they don't realize is that boxing appears simple and unspectacular compared to many Eastern martial arts, but it is still a martial art. A very practical and effective one at that.
- Real Men Wear Pink: At one point, Wing Chun is made fun of for being feminine. Without any shame, Ip Man admits that Wing Chun was invented by a woman.
- Reverse Mole: "Fatso" in the second film.
- Ring Out: The final fight against General Miura is on a raised platform with this as a defeat condition. In the sequel, Ip has to face the Hong Kong-based masters on a table, with getting off it as a defeat condition.
- Rival Turned Evil: While he and Ip Man never became friends until the sequel, Jin descended from martial artist rivalry to becoming a bandit and later selling Ip Man's last known whereabouts to the Japanese.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Ip Man's demolishing of the 10
judoka karateka may be one of these.
- Seppuku: Miura's fate in a deleted scene.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The primary antagonists of both films have high government connections. This serves to make Ip Man the underdog, despite being, well, Ip Man.
- Sequel Hook: The second film ends with the introduction of young Bruce Lee.
- Showy Invincible Hero: The titular character Curb Stomps all his enemies, but the choreography is tight enough to minimize boredom.
- Averted in the second film, where Master Hung manages to fight Ip to a draw and Ip defeats the Twister, but not before he gets knocked down a few times.
- Smug Snake: Colonel Sato, who makes leering grins liberally, crosses the Moral Event Horizon not long after his first appearance, dishes out No Holds Barred Beatdowns liberally and keeps asking to (and getting denied from) Just Shoot our hero. His Karmic Death is much-welcomed.
- So Last Season: Beating up ten Japanese karate experts and a general is nothing compared to fighting a showy British boxer.
- Tactful Translation: After Ip Man beats up the ten Karate black belts and tells off the general, the translator gives the general a much more polite version of Ip Man's words.
- Tap on the Head: Both used and averted, as many mooks go down from a single strike to the head, but named characters are more resilient. Even some mooks put up more of a fight. Ip Man either has to severely beat, or outright break the limbs of almost all the Japanese black belts in the 10-on-1 fight, for example.
- Those Two Guys: In IM 2, there's a pair of martial arts masters whose main role is to sit together and comment about the fights they're watching. They mock Ip Man during his "tryout" for the Hong Kong martial arts society and cheer him on when he's fighting Twister.
- Too Dumb to Live: You will say to yourself "No! Don't do that, you idiot!" when Zealot Lin decides to make a final attempt to attack Miura while his back is turned after their matched had been clearly finished, I guarantee it. At this point Lin was battered, bruised and likely internally bleeding, and he barely stood a chance against him when he was fresh. In the sequel, Master Hong refusing to quit when he was clearly going to be beaten to death may qualify as well, though it is more Honor Before Reason.
- Took a Level in Badass: Subverted. The son of the mill owner seems confident about his fighting skills after being trained by Ip Man. However that feeling doesn't last long when facing Jin's gang in combat.
- Training Montage: When Ip Man is Training the Peaceful Villagers.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: Subverted, where our hero trains the workers at Quan's factory in Wing Chun to help them resist a group of bandits, only for the bandits to prevail anyway until Ip Man pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Translation Convention: In the Cantonese dub, Foshaners speak Cantonese while Jin's Northerners speak Mandarin. In the Mandarin dub, both groups of Chinese speak Mandarin. However, Japanese speak uninterpreted Japanese.
- Trash Talk: The Twister mouths off about his perception on the supposedly inferiority of Chinese martial arts a lot. A LOT.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: <Insert fighting style here> vs. Wing Chun. Let's rock!
- Undefeatable Little Village: Subverted. Master Yip trains his entire local village in Wing Chun in order to fight off the bandits. However, the newly attained skills didn't prove effective and it needed Ip Man's presence to stop the gang from doing more harm to the workers.
- Underestimating Badassery: Applied to Ip in the second film.
- Unnecessary Roughness: Twister revels in it.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film's historical inaccuracies are discussed here.
- Warrior Poet: Ip Man
- Warrior Therapist: Ip Man becomes this accidentally. Between the first and second films, his friend Zhou Qing Quan loses his memory after being shot in the head by the Japanese. Zhou regains his memory after listening to Ip Man's match with Twister on the radio.
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: Twister mocks the "dancing" of the martial arts demonstration.
- Whole Plot Reference: Both films are very similar to Rocky IV. A fighter from an enemy nation shows up on the hero's home turf. The hero's rival-turned-friend gets killed in a match. The hero avenges the death in the ring without killing his opponent. Ip Man 2 even ends with the beaten up hero giving a speech on peace and tolerance, getting applause from his opponent's fans.
- Ip Man 2 also draws heavily from Akira Kurosawa's Zoku Sugata Sanshiro, specifically the plotline with the Eastern marial arts master (Japanese Judo in the Kurosawa film, Chinese Wing Chun in Ip Man 2) taking on a Western boxer in a public match after a previous practitioner had been defeated.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Colonel Sato insists on simply shooting Ip Man, but General Miura is having none of that.
- With My Hands Tied: In the second film, Wong Leung spends some time doing this.
- You Look Familiar: Both Sammo Hung and Louis Fan play different roles in Ip Man related movies. Sammo plays Hung Chun-nam, a rival teacher in the sequel, while in the "prequel," he plays Chan Wah-shun, one of Ip's kung fu teachers. Louis Fan plays the northern fighter/bandit/husband Jin Shanzhao in the two movies, while in the other one he plays Ip's adopted brother/Japanese spy Ip Tin-chi/Tanaka Eiketsu.
- Dennis To played Jin Shanzhao's henchman in the first film, then he played the gang leader and student of Hung Chun-nam in the second film, and finally he played the young Ip Man himself in the otherwise unrelated prequel film.
- Ironically, both characters which Sammo Hung plays have asthma.