Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is an enjoyable “Ipsloitation” romp with constant action and a quick pace so it’s an entertaining diversion for undemanding fight fans.
Plot: IP MAN: KUNG FU MASTER harks back to 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.
Review: It’s funny how Ip Man has become a folk hero in the vein of Wong Fei-hung over the years; they both have multiple movies of varying quality with countless different actors playing them. The majority of events in these tales are usually complete fiction but they try to capture the spirit of what the men stood for and should be taken as the sheer entertainment that they are.
Ip Man: Kung-Fu Master is no relation to the Donnie Yen starring movies but is the third Ip Man movie to star Dennis To as the legendary martial arts teacher.
Just to confuse you some more Dennis To was also in the first Donnie Yen Ip Man film as Wei and Ip Man 2 as Wai-Kei Cheng. I think it’s best not to dwell on how many movies there are, and we’ll just stick to this one which didn’t look like much from the trailers and has generally had poor reviews, but I enjoyed it for what it was.
Dennis To has the moves and is an appealing lead but he lacks the sheer magnetic charisma of Donnie Yen. What’s interesting however, is that Ip Chun, son of Ip Man, has praised To as the most accurate portrayal of his father.
The way some scene transitions are edited feels a little choppy and the fight scenes do get a little hard to follow at times, but they are at least plentiful with less wirework than usual and at 85 minutes this is a brisk watch that moves quickly from set-piece to set-piece.
Ip Man: Kung-Fu Master generally looks nice and isn’t short on visual flair which is another point in its favour. Admittedly this does take away a lot of the heart, so we never really care for any of characters and it is style over substance but really, who cares? I just watch movies like this because I want to see people being punched in the face and in that respect Ip Man: Kung-Fu Master delivers.
However, you can’t help but feel that it’s a pale reflection of the Donnie Yen movies with the climactic fight scene practically identical to the finale of the first Ip Man film from 2008.
The music score is over the top and filled with epic choirs, but it feels out of place a lot of the time and does cause some unintentional mirth.
Michael Wong is criminally underused and I was hoping he would be the primary antagonist but instead the Japanese come along and take over the story.
There are a few twists to prevent things from becoming predictable or dull so if you’re looking for a straightforward fight flick you could do a lot worse.
Overall, Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is an easy watch with near constant fight scenes; it never reaches the level of the Donnie Yen films but it is well shot and an easy watch for fight fans.