Ip Man — Film Review – The Hollywood Reporter

SHANGHAI — Semi-fictional biopics about Ip Man, Bruce Lee’s teacher in the art of boxing “Wing Chun,” have become the highest-grossing franchise among Hong Kong action films in recent years. “Ip Man” and “Ip Man 2”, directed by Wilson Ip, were the biggest hits in China and Hong Kong. Another version of Wong Kar Wai is in progress. “The Legend Is Born – Ip Man” by Herman Yau, which dwells on teenage Ip’s formative years, functions as a kind of prequel to the ongoing series.

As he builds on the continued buzz of the original and its sequel, “Ip Man 2”, Yau isn’t just going with the flow. Instead, it delivers the real deal in the action department: rigorous, authentic combat by physically formidable newcomer Dennis To and a stellar supporting cast. Even with a twisted spy plot involving cartoonish Japanese villains, higher-than-expected ticket sales in Hong Kong (but not China) prove audiences were sufficiently gratified by the action alone.

Well Go USA and Variance Films are releasing the film in the United States starting October 1.

The portrait of Ip Man’s young life is divided into three parts: in the city of Foshan, in southern China, in 1905, when Ip was initiated into the Wing Chun school of Chan Wah Shun (Sammo Hung ) as a boy; in colonial Hong Kong in 1915, when Ip proves himself in an anglicized boarding school; back to Foshan in 1919, when Ip falls in love and comes up against the Japanese plot to create their sphere of influence in the city.

The best gesture of the film is to trace the construction of the character of Ip through his relationships with three mentors, who enlighten him in different ways. It provides a platform for martial arts luminaries Hung, Yuen Biao, and Ip Chun to show off various Wing Chun fighting styles.

Although his screen time is brief, Hung has a huge presence as Master Chan, Ip’s first teacher. In a demonstration lesson where Chan and senior disciple Ng Chung So (Yuen) practice blindfolded, Hung and Yuen generate the chemistry that only longtime screen partners have.

The biggest highlight is Ip’s chance encounter with herbalist Leung Bik, the renegade son of Chan master Leung Jan. and bamboo clothes rails for imaginative effect, emphasizing the visual symmetry of the legwork – which contrasts starkly with the bias to the fists in the routines practiced by Hung and Yuen.

The fact that Leung is played by Ip Chun, son of the real Ip Man, lends authenticity to the proceedings. The octogenarian’s incredible agility and comic timing (he has a flair for epigrams) acts as an amusing foil to To who is not only the spitting image of young Donnie Yen (who starred as Ip Man in versions of Wilson Yip), but who is wooden in his acting. To release its own aura during combat.

While putting a new spin on images of Chan and Jan, two legendary characters in the world of martial arts and film, the film echoes the ethics of lineage and the sanctity of the master-disciple relationship in movies. 70s. Even Checkly Sin’s action choreography is reminiscent of the no-nonsense, bare-knuckle, and kick-ass films Lau Kar Leung made during that era. It helps that the editing isn’t rushed and allows the moves to be seen clearly, especially in the finale which features massive group fights without a sense of disarray.

The screenplay is not very concerned with coherence and confuses complication with complexity. One example is the conflicting identity and love interests of Ip’s adoptive brother, Tin-chi (Louis Fan), which seem casually written into the script to create melodrama. The Japanese conspiracy, which dominates the second half, is lame and ridiculously illogical. The Japanese are portrayed as Nazis in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Equally unlikely, but witty as a pure homage to cinema, is Ip’s date with his future wife Wing Shing to see Murnau’s “Nosferatu.”

Another highlight is the design of the costumes, sumptuous for an action film and shamelessly anachronistic. For example, arch villain Tanaka (Bernice Liu) looks like a cross-dressed version of the Green Hornet.

Venue: Shanghai International Film Festival
Sales: Mei Ah Entertainment Group Ltd.
Production: National Arts Film Production Ltd.
With: Dennis To, Crystal Huang, Louis Fan, Bernice Liu, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Ip Chun, Rose Chan
Director: Herman Yau
Screenwriter: Erica Li
Producers: Checkley Sin, Xu Wencai, Cherry Law
Director of photography: Chan Kwong Hung
Production designer: Leung Lok Man
Music: Mak Chun Hung
Costume designer: Bobo Ng
Publisher: Chung Wai Chiu
No ranking, 99 minutes

Kimberly B. Nguyen