Ip Man: Kung Fu Master Review – A Straight Kick To The Face

In the past two years, a brand new movie about Sifu Ip Man has been released during the holiday season. At this point, two things are taken for granted around the holiday season: Mariah Carey and an Ip Man movie. Although different from the Donnie Yen Ip-Man series, the latest iteration on the Wing Chun maestro sees Dennis return to the role. Ip Man: Master of Kung Fu follows Ip Man as a police captain in China’s Foshan Province. After several clashes with the Japanese, Ip Man must team up with a gangster and his former master’s brother to take on the Japanese invaders.

Ip Man: Master of Kung Fu is another example of the theory that moviegoers will watch anything as long as the action is spellbinding. To fully enjoy the movie, you have to get past the messy storytelling that uses a lot of heavily recycled tropes from the Chinese kung fu genre. These tropes: duty to family, police corruption, nationalist rhetoric and demonization of the Japanese have been played to death. As the film unfolds, you will realize that Kung Fu Master takes a lot of liberties with the historical details of Sifu Ip Man’s story. At one point in the film, he becomes a vigilante crime fighter. The “Black Knight” character is either a not-so-subtle nod to Bruce Lee’s Kato or a reference to Donnie Yen’s. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. However, Kung Fu Master is a messy, messy film.

This brings us back to our comment about “cinephiles will watch anything as long as the action is spellbinding” because Kung Fu Master is just that. Although Dennis To still lacks the poise and presence of Donnie Yen, he is still a capable and skilled fighter. Not to mention that action director Sun Fei’s fights are all beautifully choreographed, with no tricks or gimmicks.

Ip Man: Master of Kung Fu - Dennis To

Unfortunately, Kung Fu Master doesn’t give him a formidable “big bad” for the movie to build towards. You won’t find a Miura (Ip-Man) or Twister (IP Man 2) defeat secondary martial arts characters to prove their racist point of view. In place, Kung Fu Master gives us a Japanese character who uses more of his brain for the muscles of Ip Man. Unfortunately, Ip Man defeats his henchmen with relative ease. As a result, Kung Fu Master never gives us a satisfying fight that provides an exclamation point to the whole movie.

Globally, Ip Man: Master of Kung Fu is a movie that proves that a movie can still be fun to watch even if it’s not good. Still, there are times when all you need is a crummy martial arts movie with amazing choreography. After all, there’s a reason the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest movies are so beloved. You love them for their big as well as their ugly. Unfortunately for Kung Fu Masterit’s not a movie you’ll want to watch again.

Rating: 2.5/5 atoms

Ip Man: Master of Kung Fu hits theaters and on demand on December 11.

Kimberly B. Nguyen