Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Ip Man: The Awakening

Back when Hong Kong was a British colony … wait, Hong Kong was a British colony? Of course, it was, but the United Nations refuses to recognize it as a former European colony, because of the CCP’s influence. In fact, the Chinese Communist regime is in gross violation of the 1997 handover agreement (“One China Two Systems” is now as dead as a doornail). If ever Hong Kong needed a hero like Ip Man, it would be now. Instead, the villains in his latest highly fictionalized movie are all British, but at least viewers should be reminded of some awkward HK history when watching Li Xi Jie & Zhang Zhu Lin’s Ip Man: The Awakening, which releases today on DVD and BluRay.

It will be Wing Chun versus Baritsu, the British martial art cobbled together from other styles that apparently impressed Arthur Conan Doyle, because it is mostly know remembered from
Sherlock Holmes references. The baristas are in for some hurting.

This time around, Ip Man is freshly arrived in Hong Kong from Foshan. Almost immediately, he befriends Buefeng, a fellow Wing Chun practitioner, but not like Ip Man, obviously. Buefeng advises him to keep his head down and not get involved, but when Ip Man witnesses an English-backed gang of white-slavers abducting women, he naturally rescues them. Inevitably, that leads to conflict with the British boss, Mr. Starke (played by the ever so British Sergio De Ieso).

Awakening’s screenplay is a predictable, bare-bones string of cliches, even more so than the last Ip Man movie (Ip Man: Kung Fu Master). At times, it does not even make sense, as when Buefeng feels compelled to drug Ip Man before his big public bout with one of the chief Baritsu henchmen, even though he has already seen his friend thoroughly kick the butt of his partner. Seriously, why would he lose confidence when Ip Man was facing the smaller dude?

Regardless, the fight scenes are the primary reason to watch any Ip Man movie. In this case, Li & Zhang deliver some nifty set-piece brawls. There is definitely spectacle and Tse Miu plays the titular icon with a winning smile and a bit of screen charisma. However, the rest of the generic ensemble were more likely recruited for their physical chops rather than their acting ability.

If you accepted every Ip Man appearance in film and TV as part of his “true” history, it would be hard to he lived such an unassuming life in Hong Kong, for so many years. In real life, he was also a member of the Nationalist KMT, but none of the recent Chinese or Hong Kong films care to explore that aspect of his life. Regardless, the fight scenes are cool in
Awakening, but the rest of the drama is rather perfunctory, which might be just as well. Okay as a time-passer and ironically, despite the heavy anti-British propaganda, a timely reminder of Hong Kong’s colonial heritage, Ip Man: The Awakening releases today (6/21) on DVD and BluRay.