Following Ip Man at a different time in his life and before he became Bruce Lee’s teacher, Ip Man: Kung Fu Master shows Ip Man (Yu-Hang To) when he is much younger. In this film Ip Man is currently a police captain located in Foshan and he is going to be a father at any moment as his partner is heavily pregnant with his son. While in the role of police captain, Ip Man makes a significant arrest on a dangerous mobster and manages to lock him up in jail. Despite the arrest being a massive success, it’s not enjoyed for long. While the mobster is in jail, he gets brutally murdered and Ip Man is set up for the murder. Now he is being hunted by the daughter of the dead mobster along with her clan known as The Axe Gang. Ip Man decides to quit as a dedicated police officer given the situation. At the same time as this difficulty with The Axe Gang, he is also dealing with the recent arrival of the Japanese army in Guangdong province.
As a plot, I enjoyed how this film serves more as a prequel and focuses on a different time in the life of the well-known Ip Man. The story itself is basic, but I was quite pleased to see moments that contained a few nice reveals and twists, all of which were unexpected. Naturally, this film also has good action sequences which is most certainly a major highlight of this film.
I’m pleased to say the film is filled with beautiful visuals, particularly when it comes to the fight scenes. While some aspects may seem over the top or even unrealistic, it’s still entertaining nevertheless. In rare moments the action scenes can also feel like they have been added to provide a small element of humour. One example of this is when Ip Man fights a man who is referencing the art of Drunken Master and manages to fight Ip Man without getting out of his chair. During the action sequences, there are also moments which include smooth slow-motion shots and fun camera angles. The slow-motion was never overused or felt forced throughout the film.
As for any negatives I have, the edits which occur between scenes can feel somewhat abrupt. As each scene ends and changes, it never seems to have a seamless vibe. Sometimes the scenes that follow on from each other can feel entirely out of place. A minor issue for those watching the movie and requiring the subtitles, the English translation for the film contains a few odd issues with the text. These issues include things like random spacing between letters and wording that has been completely chopped off. These might seem like minor issues, but for me trying to review this film, it was indeed a distraction. The dialogue is also quite fast, so I suggest audience members that you do your best and pay attention at all times.
Overall, this film is a must-watch for fans and followers of the well-known legend, Ip Man. The film contains a basic plot and thankfully feels more like a prequel. The film’s visuals, particularly during the fight scenes, certainly do not disappoint. The film’s plot also has a few nice twists and turns which were quite surprising to see. In the end, this installment is certainly an uplifting film as Ip Man wrestles with many elements all occurring at once. Some of these elements include fear, faith, sacrifice and dignity. Pleasing for both current fans and those being introduced to the series.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden