For those who don’t know, let me give you a little background on who Ip Man was.
Ip Man was the grandmaster of Wing Chun kung fu. He was Bruce Lee’s master, and Bruce Lee eventually took what he learned from Wing Chun and added his own elements to it that he’d learned from other sources and developed his own style, which he then called Jeet Kun Do. Although he rarely ever taught any students himself directly, Ip Man did teach a few of the brightest ones and then let him teach the others under his supervision. He came from a wealthy family in the Foshan Province, but when the Japanese invaded, he and his wife and son lost everything. He later moved to Hong Kong where he was separated from his wife, who was only able to visit him there once before the border restrictions were enforced. In Hong Kong, he held Wing Chun classes on top of the Restaraunt Worker’s Union building to make ends meet.
Ok, that’s enough of a general background. Now onto the review.
For this film, Anthony Wong plays Ip Man. He’s an older actor and this film represents Ip Man’s later years, so that worked out quite well. Most people may assume that this is the third film in the Ip Man trilogy starring Donnie Yen, which it isn’t. This film was made by director Herman Yau, who also made another Ip Man film in 2010 called The Legend is Born: Ip Man. There’s a proposed film on IMDB called Ip Man 3, which is likely the true end film for the Donnie Yen trilogy, but it’s only proposed for the moment and there’s not much information about it. This film, is completely separate, as it has a different writer and director from the Donnie Yen films, which were directed by Wilson Yip. People who assume, as I did initially, that this is the completion of the Donnie Yen films, will likely be disappointed that it doesn’t live up to the standards set by them.
The biggest problem with this particular film is that it’s literally just all over the place, which makes it hard to follow at times. Much of this has to do with the fact that they were trying to cover far too wide of a year range in one film. So much so, that the different years they covered weren’t allowed to be explored and presented thoroughly, which leads to that feeling that there was just too much jumping around in the story.
I did some reading up on Ip Man before writing this review as well, and if you’re looking for generalities about his life, this film will serve that purpose just fine. Unfortunately however, they play fast and loose with quite a few of the facts. So if you really want to know about Ip Man’s life, I strongly suggest looking up factual information on the net rather than taking it from these dramaticized films. For example, the way he meets Leung Shung in the film and comes to teach on top of the Restaraunt Worker’s Union building isn’t the least bit accurate. It’s actually an interesting story, and I highly suggest checking it out when you get the chance.
All that said, this isn’t really a bad film, but it’s certainly not up to the standards of the Donnie Yen films by any stretch of the imagination. Also, don’t go into it expecting to see a whole lot of action. There is some, and there are one or two decent fights, but you won’t get the same kind of action you see in the Donnie Yen series. This one is more about the man and the last half of his life rather than focusing much on big fight scenes and action sequences. In that sense, it probably is a good representation of the man himself, even if the facts aren’t all that accurate.
For me, this one was just ok at best. I can still recommend it, but only mildly. The performances were good, and the whole look of the film really takes you back to Hong Kong as it was in the late 40s through the early 60s. I just wish they had been more focused on getting the true facts and details of his life right, and tightening down the focus to a few of the more notable events of his life rather than showing things from such a wide range of years, some of which weren’t all that interesting, or weren’t touched on enough to become interesting.
For special features, this new release from Well Go USA has a making of featurette, Cast and Crew interviews, and English language track and trailers.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.