Mention the Chinese martial arts Wing Chun and the name of its grandmaster Ip Man springs to mind immediately. Riding on the success of previous Ip Man movies (Ip Man 2 being the highest-ever grossing Hong Kong film in Singapore), this latest installment comprises a whole new cast, with newcomer Dennis To taking on the titular role.
Released less than two months after the screening of Ip Man 2 in cinemas, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man is the semi-biographical account of the young Ip Man and his journey onto a path that would place him in the annals of Chinese martial arts, leading him to groom Bruce Lee into a legendary kungfu hero.
The plot unfolds with Ip Man and his adopted brother Ip Tin Chi (Fan Siu Wong) sent to learn the art of Wing Chun in Foshan, China, from a young age.
In ensuring that the fight sequences turn out graceful and fluid, with intense close-up shots of hand-to-hand combat scenes, director Herman Yau (taking over the helm from Wilson Yip who produced the first two installments) succeeds in building up both pace and action. The highlight of the movie, however, is a special appearance by Ip Chun, Ip Man’s eldest son, who turns in a cheekily spirited performance.
The one downside is the under-development of the side plot, namely, the romance between the main female lead character, Cheung Wing Shing (Huang Yi) who falls for Ip Man. As a result, viewers are shut out of the emotional world of Ip Man beneath his tough-as-steel demeanor.
With a fourth Ip Man movie slated for production, the art of Wing Chun (and for that matter, other Chinese martial arts) looks poised to experience resurgence among the younger generation today.