Reviewed by Ingrid Jordan: As a lover of Kung Fu Movies, I am always excited to see films old or new in that genre. And that meant I was eager to experience the latest installment of “IP MAN: KUNG FU MASTER.” The iconic figure of the Ip Man martial arts grandmaster and known for training Bruce Lee has become a legend in China’s movie industry and martial arts lovers worldwide. Donnie Yen created a lasting impression in the first five Ip-Man films and brought Wing Chun to the world and new audiences. Now Dennis To has taken his place in the captain’s seat to play Ip Man for the third time.
The film opens in 1949 before the Communist Revolution with Ip Man an upstanding police officer in the city of Foshan who believes in the power of the law. He is ready to arrest criminal mastermind Third Father (played by Michael Wong) to maintain order in an unstable town. This opening scene is cinematic in scope and, it’s what I love about kung fu films. To get the arrest done Ip Man is challenged to get to the top floor if he is to get the job done. Surrounded by at least 100 men and with no backup Ip Man silently takes the challenge.
With precise moves and skills, Ip Man arrives at the top floor and conducts the arrest. But things don’t go as planned when he is framed for Third Father’s death and, his daughter(Wanliruo Xin) is out for revenge. Ip Man is expecting his first child and just wants to be present for the birth and be a good dad. But with corruption in the police force, gang rivalry and, the Japanese army in Guangzhou Ip Man decides it’s time to leave the force. However, his sense of justice won’t allow him to stand idly by and watch Foshan fall apart to corruption and oppression. He vows to make a difference and takes justice into his own hands.
At night dressed in all black and masked he hits the streets garnering the nickname “The Black Knight” and does what he does best, fight crime. With tensions high and the invasion of the Japanese, the film touches on the racial-cultural times of that era with predictable caricatures of each race. I would have liked to see Ip Man navigate his world with more fire and some badass attitude. But we are left with a stoic hero that at times seems to be giving us the stereotypical version of what it means to be Chinese.
But what defines heroism? I think the moments of reflection is always something I admire in the karate films. It always comes back to using your power for a higher purpose. Does Ip Man really want or love to fight? especially with a baby to raise I think not but he has to because it is providing a future of safety for all and it is in this sacrifice lies the true beauty of humanity.
Ip Man may not a movie for all and some may complain about Dennis To’s contained performance. But if you love Kung Fu and action movies then you won’t mind the missteps of Ip Man: Kung Fu Master. And in the end, the message is clear it’s about standing up for what’s right even when the danger to self or family is imminent.
- DENNIS TO
- YUAN LI RUOXIN
- TONG XIAOHU
- YUE DONGFENG
- CHANG QINYUAN
- ZHAO XIAOGUANG
- REN YU
- AND MICHAEL WONG
- DIRECTOR LI LIMING
OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON-DEMAND 12/11/2020
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – LI LIMING
IP MAN: KUNG FU MASTER embodies the word “confrontation.” The protagonist Ip Man struggles with himself and fights against evil forces, creating a person who stands up in times of national crisis, does not fear sacrifice, does what is right, and safeguards national dignity and national interests. The image of a real warrior. The film is not only a patriotic film, but it also arouses the audience’s thinking about faith, through the problems that Ip Man encounters on the road of life and martial arts. There is some philosophy in the excitement.
CAST STATEMENT – DENNIS TO
This my second time playing the role of Ip Man. But this time, Ip Man is also the “Black Knight,” which made me look forward to making the film even more. After I got the script, I pondered over and over again. This time I was able to bring to the role of Ip Man not only a higher level of Wing Chun skill, but also a deeper level of interpretation.
ABOUT THE FILM
This is the third time Dennis To plays the role of Ip Man, after 2010’s Ip Man: The Legend is born (directed by Herman Yau), and 2018’s Kung Fu League (directed by Jeff Lau).
Ip Chun, the son of Ip Man, has praised Dennis To as the most accurate portrayal of his father. He even shared a fight scene with To in 2010’s Ip Man: The Legend is born, as a sign of respect.
In an interview to Singaporean TV channel RazorTV, Ip Chun explained: “ I did teach Donnie Yen some Kung Fu. He had to act as Ip Man, so he had to learn Wing Chun. But for Dennis To, before he even thought about going into acting, he was already my grand- disciple. I had better chemistry with Dennis To.”
At the very start of his acting career, Dennis To actually played small roles in Wilson Yip’s Ip Man and Ip Man 2, starring Donnie Yen. In these films, he also worked as a martial arts consultant.
Before becoming an actor, Dennis To was a decorated champion of the Chinese martial art of Wushu, including a gold medal at the World Wushu Championships in 1999 (at 18, this made him China’s youngest world Wushu champion ever), 2001 and 2003, as well as at the 2005 East Asian Games. As an actor, Dennis To is a two-time Hong Kong Film Awards nominee.
Actress Yuan Li Ruo Xin’s performance in the action scenes was considerably helped by her practice of ballet dancing since the age of three.
After Ip Man: Kung Fu Master, director Li Liming will go further into Ip Man’s youth, with the prequel Young Ip Man, which will star rising Chinese actor Zhao Wenhao in the title role.