The role of Leung Bik was played by Ip Man's son Ip Chun. See more »
In a scene set in a cinema in 1919, Ip Man and his future wife (Huang Yi) are supposed to be watching Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau's 1922 horror classic. This is clearly impossible, yet the film shown is not Nosferatu anyway. See more »
Solid fights built on average plot and so-so performances
I had heard positive things about the Ip Man films and I generally have found Donnie Yen to be an enjoyable and engaging martial arts star so, sight-unseen I decided to check out the sequel when the chance came up on an airplane recently. That it turned out to be a prequel to the original film didn't really bother me, since I didn't really have any expectations on the film in this regard and the lack of Donnie Yen didn't really bother me either (albeit this was because I expected the film to transition to him as the film progressed in time!).
Anyway, the story here sees the rise of Man as he is trained up from a child, adapts his style thanks to input from the brother of his former master before returning to his original school to find shadowy plans from a Japanese influence moving into the area and making deadly political power moves. The plot generally does enough to provide a structure for the action sequences, but there is really nothing more to it than that. It had the potential to build character development and thus character tensions as well as making the most of the local political machinations and deceptions to add to the tension, but it doesn't really do either of these because it doesn't seem interested in making this more than a frame. It is still a semi-decent frame, but it is only a frame.
In terms of fight sequences the film is also decent enough without being thrilling. The individual fights are well choreographed and are filmed without the frantic editing that western films often use to cover up that the cast are only able to do one move at a time – here the performers are the ones with the skill, not just the editors. This isn't to say that they are thrilling though, but at least they are impressive in terms of technical skill. It isn't till the final fight where a bit of passion and danger gets into the film, prior to this it is noticeably lacking and it did mean I was "watching" the action rather than getting into it. Although a lot of this feeling is from the film as a whole, a good chunk of it has to rest with Yu-Hang because he is frankly dull. In the same way Seagal tends to have the same expression in all manner of scenes, so Yu-Hang tends to have a slightly simple bland expression whether he is fighting off sideshow bullies or talking with a girl he likes. I imagine if I'd seen Yen in the first film, this comparison would be unbearable because, even on its own merits he is a remarkably bland presence in the lead. Sammo shows up so briefly you wonder why he bothered apart from being a known name to help sell the film. The rest of the younger cast are pretty average as well – skilled for sure, but mostly bland or limited; the only performance that really stuck in my mind was the girl who played the Japanese general's daughter) as she showed some colour and heart in the (albeit one-note) character she had.
Overall Ip Man Legend is a solid martial arts film which delivers solid fight sequences in a so-so plot populated by mostly bland or limited performances. It carries itself with a rather worthy air that doesn't help escape the feeling of being a bit of a trudge, but it is still an "OK" film although nothing more than that.
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