Ip Man: Kung Fu Master
review by Bobby Blakey
While the Ip Man series featuring Donnie Yen is the most notable there have been other films featuring the iconic martial arts master. Actor Dennis To has not only appeared in some of those films he has taken on the role of Ip Man himself in The Legend is Born: Ip Man and Kung Fu League. Now he is stepping into the role once again with Ip Man: Kung Fu Master co-starring Yuan Li Ruoxin, Tong Xiaohu, Yue Dongfeng, Chang Qinyuan, Zhao Xioguang, Ren Yu and Michael Wong. Could this latest film focusing on Ip Man do his legend justice or will it fail to win the fight?
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master follows Ip’s early days before the Communist Revolution in 1949. Ip, portrayed by Dennis To for the third time as the martial artist who famously tutored Bruce Lee, was then a police captain who was framed for the murder of a ruthless but honorable mobster, and targeted for vengeance by his dangerous daughter. Forced to quit the force, Ip soon also has to contend with the arrival of the Japanese army in Guangzhou.
Just to be clear this film has nothing to do with the Donnie Yen franchise nor is it trying to be a part of it despite what some people are trying to argue. This is a film all on its own keeping the focus on Ip Man’s time as a police officer. The film is obviously taking some liberties to the history to tell a story of Ip Man here as more of a straight up action film than a biopic and I am fine with that. If you know that going into this film you can look at it the way it was meant to be seen instead of just thinking it’s a rip off of the bigger franchise which it is not.
Dennis To steps back into the role of Ip Man for the third time and does a great job with the role. I personally think he looks more like the real Ip Man than Yen does, but does suffer from having to live up to the now iconic franchise. I applaud him taking on the role and embracing it to make it his own thing. As I mentioned, this movie is more of an action film and wastes no time bringing a ton of fight scenes as often as possible. The crime story element helps to move it
along, but this movie as all about the action and nothing else and they fully embrace it. The story works well enough and To is brings the needed emotion and stature needed to not only embody Ip Man but to carry this type of film. It’s cool to know that To also made his film debut in the original Ip Man and returned in Ip Man 2 and has now graduated to starring as the iconic martial artist.
The action is often and for the most part the fights are all really good. There are a couple that have some bad editing or needed to be worked out a bit more but overall I enjoyed them. The whole film feels more like an old school Kung Fu flick which I love as opposed to trying to be some epic feature. Even with this it still feels bigger and allows the legacy of Ip Man to shine through in a different way while never disrespecting it or the other films that have been done. The fast and furious action never disappoints overall and kept me wanting more right up until then. They even bring in a cool nod to fictional martial arts character Chen Zen who has been portrayed by both Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen in past films.
In the end if you try to compare it to the Yen Ip Man films then of course you are going to have issues because it’s a different animal. If you just love old school martial arts films then give Ip Man: Kung Fu Master a try and decide for yourself when it hits theaters and On Demand on December 11th from Magnet Releasing.