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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Movie Review: “Ip Man: The Awakening” (2022)

“Someone must stand up to injustice!”

-by Mike Imboden
Right out of the gate I should state that I’m not a martial arts connoisseur and do not have a vast knowledge of the genre.  That’s not to say I’m clueless - I mean, I grew up watching various incarnations of “Kung Fu Theater” on TV (since it usually followed pro wrestling on TV back in the 80s), and I’ve seen plenty of films since then - so I’m mainly putting that out there so I don’t get lambasted if I state something obvious or incorrectly attribute one thing or another.  I also say that because, previous to this, I have not seen any of the Ip Man movies.  Nope - not any of the Donnie Yen ones (which I need to correct because I hear they are amazing), nor any of the others that came along trying to cash in on Yen’s successful run portraying the master of the Wing Chun style of fighting who also happened to be Bruce Lee’s teacher.

It might be because of all that that I liked Ip Man: The Awakening a bit more than it was worth liking.

That’s not to say that this is a bad movie, but at less than 90 minutes I felt that the story and characterization got a little short-shrifted with many scenes cutting to different ones with very little transition and characters that seemed a bit cookie cutter.  Even the plot is a bit bare bones and very much like numerous other films in the genre; small town hero goes to big city and discovers that corruption tends to drive society which culminates in the hero bucking the system and winning one for the little man. 
The corruption in this case is human trafficking and Ip Man (Miu Tse) along with friend Bufeng (Chen Guan Ying) run afoul of the traffickers which results in retaliation and the abduction of Bufeng’s sister, Chan (Zhao Yu Xuan) by the head man of the organization, Mr. Stark (played by Sergio Deieso).  After stopping an incident they stumble across, Bufeng tells Ip that maybe they should not get involved.  The local police are being paid off and many residents in the neighborhood turn a blind eye - as long as everyone makes money, there’s no point in ruffling feathers. Of course they DO get involved.
As far as the action goes, it’s pretty good here running from a close-quarters battle on a bus, to a one-on-one battle on a large stage in the middle of a city square.  The most interesting aspect, at least to me, was the fighting style used by the bad guys called Bartitsu that combines elements of boxing, jujitsu, savate and cane fighting.  Of course, with every “pro” there’s usually a “con” and here it’s that the editing of the fights is a bit odd, making some aspects seem slower than they should be while others are whip-fast.  In fact, I’d say the editing as a whole is a bit suspect from time to time.  Some things seem to be glossed over (one involving a couple of the protagonists towards the end goes left totally unexplained), and it’s hard to tell the couple of flashbacks from the current story.  I wonder if there were a lot of cuts done to get this under 90s minutes for some reason because it sure seems like another 10 or 15 minutes added throughout could have eliminated some of these disjointed plot points and added a little bit more characterization (beyond “he’s smoking a cigar so he’s a bad guy”).

All in all Ip Man: The Awakening whiffs in a couple of areas but is still an entertaining movie that makes me want to see more of star Miu Tse and any other entries in this portrayal of Ip Man that come along.  While I don’t think it was the intended goal, I also have more desire to see the four Donnie Yen Ip Man movies.

Ip Man: The Awakening is available now on Blu-ray and streaming on the Hi-Yah! Streaming service 

Directed by: Zhang Zhulin and Li Xijie
Written by: Fang Lan and Liu Bayin
Genre: Martial Arts; Action & Adventure
Distributed by: Well Go USA Entertainment
Starring: Miu Tse, Chen Guan Ying, Zhao Yu Xuan, Sergio Deieso, Hao Yan Fei
Running time: 80 minutes
Rated: NR
Release date: June 21, 2022

"Ip Man: The Awakening ... an entertaining movie that makes me want to see more of star Miu Tse and any other entries in this portrayal of Ip Man that come along."


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