Monday, February 14, 2011

Kung fu & Horror

After a tip I decided to watch a movie called IP MAN. In case you haven't heard of it, it's a great new kung fu-movie about the real-life martial art legend of China- Ip Man. He was the martial art teacher of Bruce Lee and remains a symbol for kung-fu excellence.

The movie follows a part of his life where he is the undefeated master of kung-fu who's existence gets thrown upside down after the Japanese occupation. Now a poor man he finds no use for his fighting skills and begins to doubt himself and the path he chose. It is an interesting and fresh view upon a genre that I really like, yet usually is filled with very superficial characters and thin or simply ridiculous stories. Kung-fu movies many times are an excuse-of-a-story to see great fighting. Don't get me wrong, I like them none-the-less or maybe even because of that, yet Ip Man had an unexpected depth to it.

The entire movie is worth watching simply for one jaw dropping, chill-down-the-spine scene: At one point the Japanese invite Chinese martial artists to fight against them in a "friendly" match. If the Chinese win, they get food. Needless to say that desperation brings some of Ip Man's friends to go, yet some of them never return. Ip Man then witnesses his close friend getting executed after losing a match. This infuriates him and he steps into the ring challenging 10 of the Japanese black-belt karate fighters, much to the surprise of the general who enjoys watching these matches. What follows is the essence of a good martial arts movie and yet again proof that we in the West have a lot to learn from Asia in the art of kicking-ass in a beautiful way.

I have seen the trailer for Ip Man 2 that I'm not really interested in as I believe it's simply trying to ride the popularity of the first one. And in case you find there is another movie also made recently called The Legend Is Born - Ip Man, this is not the same movie and is not worth watching...yes I made the mistake of confusing the two.

The second movie I wanted to mention is a South Korean horror movie called I saw the Devil. That movie goes under my skin.

It belongs in the same category for me as the French movie Martyrs. They both have stories that utilize the horror only as a side dish to a nightmarish plot that really got to me.
I saw the Devil is a great title for the movie as the story is about a husband who tries to track down a serial killer who is responsible for his wife's horrific murder. As he gets closer to the killer and begins a cat & mouse game with him he slowly realizes just how merciless, cold, ruthless, brutal and senseless this person is. Trying to understand such a mind is like staring into darkness. This movie is that darkness staring back at you.

One of the scenes that got to me was as we watch how the killer goes about getting one of his prey. Usually when there have been movies about serial killers you didn't see the details of them luring in their prey and then brutally killing them. Usually they cut away. Here you see him offering his victim a ride seemingly a nice guy. Then, as he turns into a side street he pulls out a metal bar for the poor woman to see and continues to beat her head in. I mention this scene not in order to spoil anything, because the movie is filled with these kind of scenarios and thus there is still plenty left unmentioned. One worse than the other. The story is really unpredictable and leaves you wondering how it could possibly get worse from there on; yet it does. I found myself at one point literally saying out loud "oh no!". I realized slowly what they were planning to set up and I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue watching it. But I did.

Sure, the story is over the top. Yet it was their intention to play with your emotions, get you to feel the most extreme horror and terror. And that they did so successfully that I simply cannot recommend this movie to anyone even though I consider it well done.

This one should only be watched by people that can handle a movie that goes to the core.

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