Ip Man was a Hong Kong martial artist whose most famous student was Bruce Lee. He has been the subject of numerous bio-pics including those about Bruce Lee and about his own life. This latest film, directed by Li Liming, has Hong Kong actor Yu-Hang To playing Ip Man. This is the third time To has played Ip Man, the other films being Herman Yau’s Ip Man: The Legend is Born and Jeff Lau’s Kung Fu League. According to Ip Man’s oldest son, Ip Chun (whose birth features in this latest film) Yu-Hang To’s Ip Man is the closest film portrayal of his father.
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is set in 1949 in the town of Foshan in the disputed province of Guangzhou that is semi-controlled by the invading Japanese. The film opens and closes with a question – Why do we study Kung Fu? The answer is to serve and protect the community. Ip Man is a Captain in the local police force. He is accused of murdering a local crime lord, which brings down upon him the wrath of the crime lord’s daughter, played with great relish and charm by Wanliruo Xin. All this, however, has been manipulated by a corrupt Japanese businessman who wishes to import opium into the community. Ip Man, forced into hiding, becomes a mysterious masked man who continues to protect his community. The businessman brings in a Japanese master of karate to lure out Ip Man for a final confrontation.
If you are a fan of the Ip Man movies you will love this latest film. It may not be historically accurate, nonetheless, the film is stylish and sophisticated in many ways, notably by the use of colours that give an added depth and meaning to the action. Furthermore, there is an abundant use of close-ups in the dramatic narrative that is a little unusual in such martial arts film. It is full of thrilling and beautifully staged martial arts battles by relative newcomer, Sun Fei. The purpose of Kung Fu may well be to serve and protect the community from corrupting influences but also in the world of contemporary cinema it provides a welcome, stylish, and highly enjoyable form of popular escapist entertainment.