Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who's the Man

 Iron Man was a real comics movie breakthrough - with Robert Downey Jr. brilliantly depicting the dissolute and desperate genius Tony Stark. Iron Man 2, on the other hand, is just a great movie, coasting on the first one. We still have Stark as alcoholic, asshole-ic badboy with a tragic flaw - the arc reactor that is keeping him alive is also poisoning him. He has a number of other problems, mainly that the Army wants to get its hands on the Iron Man suit. In fact, Don Cheadle manages to steal one while Stark is having a drunken birthday party.

Meanwhile, Mickey Rourke in Russia is creating a suit of his own, complete with energy whips. He makes a great villain for the piece: Not many actors can match Downey's badboy rep, but Rourke sure can. His Russian accent explains why nobody can understand a word he mumbles.

Add onto all of these Iron Men, we have Stark's daddy issues. It seems his father was a cold Walt Disney type, who - never mind, I couldn't buy any of this, and I won't try to sell you. We also have the romance between Stark and Gweneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, his secretary. Of course, I enjoy seeing this develop, but I kind of wanted to keep the tension going for a while. Oh well, -SPOILER- I can't be sorry these crazy kids got together.

Ip Man is a totally different kind of man. It stars Donnie Yen as Ip Man, the founder of modern school of Wing Chun martial arts. It starts in 1930s Foshan, China, a rich little town with a lot of martial arts hobbyists. Ip Man is number one, but he rarely fights, preferring to hang out in his mansion with his wife and kids. When the Japanese come and devastate the city, he has to work in the coalworks to survive, but his calm dignified spirit is not broken.

The Japanese general is a martial artist himself, though, and soon seeks out Ip Man to stage fights, and tries to recruit him as a teacher for the Japanese soldiers. It all builds up to a classic karate vs. Wing Chun duel.

Yen is lovely in this role, dignified, grounded, and unstoppable in combat. The fights, choreographed by Sammo Hung, are well worth watching. The film has an interesting look, with a burnished antique feel combined with a white overhead glare in some of the fight scenes. Excellent martial arts movie.

Now, will Ip Man 2 be a disappointment when it is available?

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