Posted in Fantasia 2011, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews

Fantasia 2011: Review of Ip Man: The Legend is Born

Ip Man: The Legend is Born (2010)
Director: Herman Yau, Screenplay: Erica Lee
Cast: Dennis To Yue-Hong, Louis Fan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Ip Chun

This was quite the crowd pleaser at Fantasia and I admit to enjoying it more than I anticipated but nothing really surprised me.  Although I was a huge martial arts flick fan when I was young (particular during Jet Li’s prime) I had gotten tired of the genre in recent years.  I actually haven’t seen the previous Ip Man movies with Donnie Yen.  This movie acts as a prequel or reboot.

The titular role goes to Dennis To who fills in  as the young Ip Man and kinda resembles Donnie Yen a bit.  Obviously he doesn’t bring the screen presence that Donnie does. I think To does ok but his character is written kinda dull.  Unlike Donnie, Dennis actually is an expert in Wing Chun which I would guess lends more authenticity to the fighting. I’m not familiar enough with all the different kung fu styles to identify what “real” Wing Chun looks like but whatever is happening it looks good.

The movie wastes no time getting to the fisticuffs featuring Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in an entertaining blindfold fight.  The child version of Ip Man is introduced along with his adopted brother and a girl who sneak out one night for some fried bread sticks.  This set ups a love triangle which comes to fruition when the story fast-forwards to the present.  That love triangle turns into a square as another love interest enters the equation, a young lady from a rich family who has a great introduction in another action sequence but ends up mostly pouting and pining like the other love interest for the rest of the movie.  Predictable yes but the romantic misunderstandings actually inject humour into the movie both intentional and unintentional.

Ip Man shows off a lot of fast arm movements which as the movie tells us is what “true” Wing Chun is all about.  When Ip Man moves to Hong Kong briefly he soon learns that there’s more to Wing Chun than the rigid style that was taught to him.  In one entertaining scene Ip Man gets schooled in a friendly sparring match against an old master (played by Ip Man’s real son, Ip Chun) with his “non-authentic” style of Wing Chun which includes low elbow strikes and high kicks in close quarters.  It’s these new moves that Ip Man learns that helps him in the second to last fight that involves a bunch of ninjas and eventually his main martial arts rival.  Seasoned martial arts viewers will easily guess who this rival is but the movie does a pretty decent job of hiding this reveal for a while.

A couple of things I didn’t like was that for the most part Ip-Man is never in any real danger as he’s shown as the superior fighter with no doubt of him even wavering just a bit.  There are also some MMA style grappling moves performed which seem quite out of place for the time period.  These are rather minor complaints and while the fighting is overall not wow-inducing, it entertains in a mostly realistic manner which old school martial arts fans should appreciate.

Although not related, I must say that the trailer for the old kung fu movie “Odd Couple” was hilarious.

The next screening of Ip Man at Fantasia is on Monday, July 18 at 3pm in the Hall building.

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Occasional guest "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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