For film buffs familiar with Hong Kong kung fu cinema, the name Donnie Yen will be instantly familiar and recognizable, indeed on a similar pedestal as the more internationally known figures of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li. But for the casual audience member, Donnie Yen is largely known for having supporting roles in movies, devoid of the charisma and appeal that higher profile martial artists wield so effectively in both Asian and Hollywood films.
The award-winning film Ip Man, released in 2008, served to change that conception of Donnie Yen permanently and cemented his credentials as a bankable star in the Hong Kong industry. Yen played the real-life grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu and future sifu of Bruce Lee, Yip "Ip" Man, as he fought Japanese martial artists during World War Two in a series of classic kung fu showdowns. Additionally, the fighting choreographer for the film was none other than Sammo Hung, the revered founder and pioneer of the genre who has even more seniority than Jackie Chan.
Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung managed to garner an unprecedented amount of critical and commercial acclaim with the film, revitalizing both of their reputations as kung fu masters, particularly at a time where Jet Li and Jackie Chan were seeking to expand into more dramatic and less fighting-based cinema. The sequel to Ip Man was soon in the works. Released in April of 2010, "Ip Man 2" did not disappoint, featuring even more elaborate combat sequences, this time set in post-WW2 Hong Kong. The 58-year old Sammo Hung even makes an appearance as an elder master who challenges Ip Man to determine his worthiness as a Hong Kong sifu.
The US version of Ip Man is currently making the film festival circuit. In the meantime, check out the trailer for the film Ip Man 2 to catch the resurgence of Donnie Yen and the kung fu genre!
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