2008 Hong Kong Phooey
Plot: The tale of Yip Man and why he lost his Y. Loosely (I imagine very loosely) based on a real-life tough guy in Foshan, a town packed with martial arts schools, who single-handedly-and-footedly beats up every single Japanese person and teaches China the art of Wing Chun. Bruce Lee, according to the poster, learned from him.
Not only is this an action-packed kung-fu film stuffed with lots and lots of images of guys getting kicked in the side of the face in slow motion (a modern kung-fu movie idea that will likely be beaten into the ground), it's a great movie. The cinematography is impressive, and the 1930s Foshan they've created is very realistic. The acting's good, especially the stoic Donnie Yen as the titular Yip, a guy whose got that gift of having such a presence even if he's not doing anything, reminiscent, I think, of the commanding screen presence that Bruce Lee had. And the scenes when he actually does do things on screen? Electric. The fight scenes are terrific--intensely exciting and often even emotional. There's a scene near the middle of the film where Yen fights Japanese soldiers for the first time, and from the moment he says, "I'm going to fight ten of you mo-fos" (that's my paraphrase) to the last strike, I was all goose-pimply. It's one of those fight scenes that, if you enjoy martial arts movies, you just have to rewind and watch again. You never really get the sense that Yen's character is in any danger at all though; in fact, I wondered if it was in his contract that he was not to be struck on screen or something. Still, regardless of whether or not there's any suspense about who is going to win any of the fight scenes, it's great fun watching Yen's quickness and fluid movement and there's nothing going on that makes it unrealistic or fantastical like some other modern kung-fu classics. With flying fists, swinging axes, dancing long poles, and busting bones, this has enough to please both old school kung-fu aficionados and fans of all those beautifully photographed, more mature martial arts dramas that have been made this century. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy. I'm also pretty sure that Ip Man is really a glossy action-oriented propaganda film. But who cares?
A confession: I may have watched this only to prevent it from being Kairow's movie-of-the-month selection for March because it would mess up the movie I want to pick in a few months. He can have credit for the recommendation though.