Ip Man: Kung Fu Master (2019)

Posted in Reviews by - April 05, 2021
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master (2019)

This straight-to-digital release plays like a ‘greatest hits’ of all your favourite Ip Man tropes from the last decade. There’s the neo-noir aesthetics and rain-drenched, slow motion battle scenes from The Grandmaster; there’s a contrived bout in a boxing ring pitting Ip Man’s Chinese kung fu against a Japanese military karate fighter, like Wilson Yip’s first Ip Man film; there’s even an excursion into superhero territory in which Ip Man dons a black mask to fight crime in scenes lifted from an entirely separate Donnie Yen movie, Legend of the Fist. So, zero marks for originality, but the film offers enough heady excitement to savour, and some memorable performances. Yuan Li Ruoxin is great as the fiery, vengeful, axe-wielding daughter of a Chinese gang leader, caught between her patriotism and her pride; and Zhao Xiaoguang is excellent as the epitome of pernicious skullduggery, playing a wily Chinese intellect working for the invading Japanese forces. Dennis To’s labelling as a ‘budget Ip Man’ is a little harsh (this is his third outing as the character), but it is true that his Ip Man films haven’t always reached the same quality as some of the other examples in the genre. His screen presence isn’t quite up there with fellow Ip Man actors like Tony Leung or Anthony Wong, and he can’t hold a candle to Donnie Yen in the fight scenes, but he brings poise and understatement to the role in keeping with its basic requirements. Story-wise, the Ip Man films have long since given up any attempt to correlate with the facts, used instead as an effective marketing tool for some patriotic pugilism. This one, in particular, seems to exist in a completely alternate kung fu reality and is actually all the better for it.

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital in the UK on 19 April 2021 courtesy of Dazzler Media.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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