The Legend Is Born: Ip Man Cover Learning how to fight is a very tough thing to do. You'll need: Dedication. Very straight-hair. Some sort of long flowing dressing-gown. And a name that's sharp yet rhythmical to pronounce. Trust me -- I know. I saw it in this film Directed by Herman Yau; and Starring: Dennis To, Fan Siu-wong, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao. It was made in 2010, and lasts for 100-minutes.

The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

Now it's pretty safe to say that young master Ip Man (Dennis To) spent the majority of his adolescent life, leaning the traditional Chinese martial art called Wing Chun.

From his first teacher, Chan Wah-shun (Sammo Hung): he ascertained the basic foundations of this oriental self-defense technique, until one day Chan suddenly died of a heart attack. Then, from Chan's successor, Ng Chung-sok (Yuen Biao): his skill levels improved so much, that he was able to defend a gentrified young lady named Cheung Wing-shing (Huang Yi), when she was accosted by a gang of ruffians at the local marketplace. Plus finally, when Ip Man got a bit older, and traveled to Hong Kong to study there for a short while: he became so good at this chop-socky shtick; he got the Wonton kicked out of him by an old medicine man that looked like Kermit the frog.

Yeah. I'm not stirring your noodles the wrong way, pal! His name was Leung Bik (Ip Chun). And after kicking the Wok out of Ip, he then decided to tech him how to expand upon the traditional principals of Wing Chun, and become almost as good a Bruce Lee himself.

Honestly. Just ask Ip Man's half-brother, Ip Tin-chi (Fan Siu-wong), plus his blushing bride to be, Lee Mei-wai (Rose Chan Ka-Wun), when he return's home again a year or so later. They'd both tell you how much he improved since he's been away.

However, I can't say the same thing about his teacher though, Ng Chung-sok. He doesn't like what Ip Man has been taught one little bit. Telling him as such with a kick to the head and a slap to the face, KA-POW! Furthermore, just to make life even worse for Ip and company, when the Japanese come moseying into town looking for some trouble, guess who's door they knock on first?

Knock-Knock-Knock! Ops!

Still, that's most probably why what next transpires comes into play when romance is in the air, just before Ip Man gets arrested for murder. As Japanese warmongers are up to no good - love turns into something more than it should - a brother turns out to be a traitor - and at the end of the day, a dictator is not what I'd call a creator.

Now I've read the reviews. I've done my research. And I've flicked through my Chinese recipe book for good measure. Nonetheless, no matter what I seem to do, I have no choice but to compare 'The Legend Is Born - Ip Man', to its more conventional cinematic counterparts -- 'Ip Man 1 and 2' respectively.

Admittedly, this movie isn't as dynamic or as polished as these two aforementioned films. Still, that's not to say it's not any good. Firstly, it did manage to tell an expansive and slightly biographical story -- which was nice -- even though certain segments were kicked into touch by the scope of the film. Secondly, most of the martial arts on show were very punchy to watch -- which was nice again -- although sometimes too much wire-work is too much in retrospect. And thirdly, by in large most of the characters did show character -- which was nice yet again -- shame that some of them were of the one note variety though.

Sammo and Yuen in The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

Bruce Lee and Yip Man
Here, before I say something else 'is nice', I think that this is a good time for some film related facts, OK? (1) 'Cathay-Keris Films Universe Laser and Video Company Limited', released this picture in Hong Kong on the 24th of June, 2010. (2) The anglicized name for the main protagonist in this movie is actually spelt 'Yip Man', and not 'Ip Man'. It was changed for legal reasons. (3) This prequel isn't associated with the Wilson Yip / Donnie Yen 'Ip Man film franchise', although Sammo Hung and Fan Siu-wong were both featured in these two aforementioned movies. Also, the actor who played Ip Man in this film, Danny To, actually starred in these two previous productions as well. Playing the misguided 'Cheng Wai-Kei' in 'Ip Man 2', and playing the not so misguided ' Hu Wei' in 'Ip Man'. (4) The real Yip Man was born on the 1st of October, 1893, and died on the 2nd of December, 1972, six months prior to his famous pupil, Bruce Lee, passed away. Yip's cause of death was lung cancer, allegedly brought about by smoking too much. (5) Yuen Biao's character plays the subordinate to Sammo Hung's character in this movie. In real life though, whist they were both at the Peaking Opera School together, the roles were exactly the same. Yuen was Sammo's subordinate. (6) Depending on where you come from, this film has also been called 'Ip Man 3', or 'Ip Man Zero'. (7) I'm afraid to say that this biopic took a right bashing by the filmic-elite, with a few of them calling it 'a Luke warm version of its predecessors'. (8) The son of the real-life Yip Man, Ip Chun, stars in this film as his own father's sisuk, Leung Bik. (9) If you are able to read Japanese, this film has an official website -- ipman-tanjyo.com

Ip Chun in The Legend Born

OK, so where was I? Oh, yes! 'The Legend Is Born - Ip Man'. A very nice film if ever I saw one. In fact, it's so nice, that I can hardly say anything bad about it really. In essence, it's a four act play. Act One: Teach Ip Man how to fight. Act Two: Make his character stand out from the crowd. Act Three: Throw a Japanese spanner in the works. And Act Four: Biff! Bang! Bong! Wongs you're Uncle, and Chan's your Aunt. Job done. 

Yip Man Practicing
Granted, here and there, there were a quite a few factual errors plus philandering segments that didn't seem to go anywhere within the overall tale. Moreover, I wasn't very keen on how certain scenes seemed wedged into the proceedings; just to give a nod and a wink to the Bruce Lee fans either.

Still, on the surface, this film isn't a bad film all in all. Not better than Ip Man 1 or 2. Agreed. But I did like its professional vibe, plus watching the main stars of the show -- Dennis To, Fan Siu-wong, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao -- because they all did add something to this adventure that wouldn't have been there without them.

Class in a can. Say no more.


THE LEGEND IS BORN - IP MAN THE LEGEND IS BORN - IP MAN Reviewed by David Andrews on April 11, 2013 Rating: 5
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