Ip Man: Kung Fu Master Review – A Straight Kick to the Face

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master

For the past couple of years, a brand new movie about Sifu Ip Man has come out during the holiday season. At this point, two things are a given around the holiday season: Mariah Carey and an Ip Man movie. Although different from the Donnie Yen Ip Man series, the latest iteration about the Wing Chun maestro sees Dennis To return to the role. Ip Man: Kung Fu Master follows Ip Man as a police captain in Foshan province in China. After several clashes with the Japanese, Ip Man must team up with a gangster and the brother of his former master to take on the invading Japanese. 

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is another example of the theory that moviegoers will watch anything as long as the action is spellbinding. To fully enjoy the movie, one must get past the messy storytelling that uses a lot of heavily recycled tropes from the Chinese kung fu genre. These tropes: Duty to family, police corruption, Nationalist rhetoric, and demonizing the Japanese have been played to death. As the film plays out, you’ll realize that Kung Fu Master takes a lot of liberties with the historical accuracies of Sifu Ip Man’s story. At one point in the film, he becomes a vigilante crime fighter. The “Black Knight” character is either a not-so-subtle nod to Bruce Lee’s Kato or a reference to Donnie Yen’s Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Nevertheless, Kung Fu Master is a messy, messy movie.

This brings us back to our comment about “moviegoers will watch anything as long as the action is spellbinding” because Kung Fu Master is just that. Although Dennis To is still missing Donnie Yen’s poise and presence, he’s still a capable and skilled fighter. Not to mention, action director Sun Fei’s fights are all beautifully choreographed with no tricks or gimmickry involved. 

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master - Dennis To

Unfortunately, Kung Fu Master doesn’t give him a formidable “big bad” for the film to build towards. You won’t find a Miura (Ip Man) or Twister (Ip Man 2) defeating secondary martial arts characters to prove their racist point-of-view. Instead, Kung Fu Master gives us a Japanese character who uses more of his brain to Ip Man’s brawn. Unfortunately, Ip Man defeats his henchmen with relative ease. As a result, Kung Fu Master never gives us a satisfying brawl that provides an exclamation mark to the whole movie.

Overall, Ip Man: Kung Fu Master is a film that proves that a movie can still be fun to watch despite not being any good. Yet there are times when all you need is a crummy martial arts movie with amazing choreography. After all, there’s a reason why Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest movies are so beloved. You love them for their great ones as much as you do their lousy ones. Unfortunately for Kung Fu Master, this isn’t a movie that you’ll be pining to rewatch.

Rating: 2.5/5 atoms

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master hits theaters and on-demand on December 11th.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1700 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.

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