Judge David Johnson is a Nip Man. Don't ask.
Learn. Master. Achieve.
Some folks just can't get enough Ip Man.
Facts of the Case
Who is Ip Man? He's the legendary teacher of Bruce Lee. He also did a bunch of interesting stuff in China during the early 20th century, most notably punching a bunch of Japanese guys in the head. After two movies, you'd think there wouldn't be more Ip Man story to tell, but here's a prequel, documenting his rise to fame while he, yes, punches more Japanese guys in the head.
The biggest change for the Ip Man franchise is the loss of kung-fu god Donnie Yen, who was replaced by Yu-Hang To, a fresh face. While no one can hope to get up to Yen's level of awesomeness, To isn't a terrible alternative. He exudes the scholarly, know-it-all attitude Ip Man needs and, more importantly, can throw down when called upon.
The only trouble: there isn't that much action to be found in The Legend is Born. Less an action film and more a historical drama, this Ip Man installment looks to spin a political saga more than show the main man dropping the hammer. Translation: this movie is boring.
If you can't get enough period Chinese drama, there might be some value here, but I'm pretty much Ipped out. Once again, the Japanese are the thugs here (perhaps in the Chinese film industry, the Japanese are like Eastern European bank thieves in our action films). And once again it all culminates in Ip Man issuing a series of savage beatings to some hapless Japanese karate masters.
The run-up to this showdown is a trek, focusing on Ip Man's participation in a kung fu school and, later, his impromptu investigation into the death of a teacher and the eventual uncovering of a stunning conspiracy by—you guessed it!—the Japanese.
Fast forward to the dust-ups. All two of them (and one odd flashback blindfolded fight featuring Sammo Hung in a glorified cameo). The fight choreography is so-so, given limited juice by Yu-Hang To's skill. The highlight is the big multi-ninja throwdown at the end and it's merely okay. Ip Man does battle with a giant wooden bow-like weapon and even though the karate death masters have swords and outnumber their foe 20 to 1, they can't seem to solve his defenses…
Funimation's Blu-ray/DVD set is solid. The 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen transfer is clean and detail-rich, and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks (Cantonese and English) kick in nicely during the more active moments. Only one extra: a decent-sized making-of documentary.
I think I've got enough info on Ip Man now, thanks.
Ip this one in the bud. Look elsewhere for your martial arts thrills.
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