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on 30 September 2010
During the last several years an interesting development has occurred in martial arts movies: Some of them have become historical dramas rather than action adventures (whether modern or set in the "heroic age"). There is still lots of martial arts in them, but instead of villains and revenge and the battle between good and evil the focus has changed in the direction of characterization, romance and history, even if the historical aspect is often somewhat glorified for artistic reasons. A great example was the slightly spruced-up biopic of Huo Yuanjia, Fearless (2006), which rates as one of Jet Li's very best movies. Some extra glamor and action, to be sure, but on the whole a dramatization of the life story of a seminal figure in the martial arts world.

It is a very interesting development, because this sort of movies are growing more realistic and modern without compromising the moral and philosophical integrity associated with Asian martial arts. The picture they paint may still be romanticized and highly speculative, but it feels a lot more real than the conventional, hackneyed action/revenge flicks. And as long as the martial arts content remains of high quality, the true kung fu movie fan can have no complaints.

The Legend Is Born: Ip Man (2010) is another movie of this intriguing kind. The backdrop to the core conflict is not some far-fetched personal feud, but a historical element leading back to China's unfortunate predicament in getting caught between a rock and a hard place in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 (the Russians and the Japanese basically fought over which one of them should annex Manchuria, a part of China). This conflict set the agenda for the bad relations between China and Japan for decades thereafter. Hence, the Japanese make natural villains in a Chinese movie of this sort.

Ip Man is the legendary wing chun kung fu master and innovator who trained Bruce Lee. The great wing chun masters of the last century or more, whether they would want to or not, have become heroes of popular myth, and given rise to a thriving industry of martial arts movie entertainment. In reality their lives were not filled with adventure and villainous challenges, but who better to fabricate historic legends about in a time that yearns for cinematic feats of heroic martial arts?

Hong Kong icon Donnie Yen played Ip Man in the highly entertaining 2008 movie of that name, which has a sequel in theaters this year, also starring Donnie Yen (the DVD is available from Asian outlets). The DVD reviewed here, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man (2010), is a prequel to these movies, starring a young Ip Man played by Dennis To in his first lead role. His foster brother, Tin-chi, is played by the impressive Louis Fan, who shot to fame as Riki-Oh in the classic 1991 Hong Kong movie The Story of Ricky, when he was only eighteen.

The Legend Is Born: Ip Man chronicles the upbringing and training of Ip Man and Ip Tin-chi, and how Ip Man goes to the big city where he encounters "non-authentic" wing chun, which intrigues him so much that he brings it back to his home-town school, much to the dismay of his old teacher and school master. This teacher, Chung-So, is played by none other than the idol of most true kung fu movie fans, Yuen Biao (the third guy in the Lucky Stars trio, the more well-known other two being Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung), who hasn't done a lot of movie work in recent years. It was fantastic seeing him again, and in a fairly large and active role, too. In this movie, he takes over as the school master, following the death of the previous master, played by Sammo Hung. They have some great training sequences together.

The focal point of the story is the relationship between Ip Man, his foster brother Tin-chi and their childhood friend Mei-wai (played by Rose Chan), who is also a student at the school. Tin-chi is in love with Mei-wai, but Mei-wai is on love with Ip Man, who however doesn't notice her. Ip Man falls for the mayor's daughter, the rich and modern Wing-shing (Betty Huang), and the unhappy Mei-wai eventually gives in and marries Tin-chi. It takes place across fifteen years (c.1905-1920), and the historical period, with lots of new western influences, is very convincingly painted.

The martial arts in the early part of the movie is all training and discovering new styles, and it is a joy to watch. These guys know their stuff, and there can hardly be much doubt that Dennis To stands before a glorious martial arts movie career. In the second part of the movie, a shady Japanese merchant wants the school to train his people, and, rather strangely, Tin-chi (who is now the school's effective leader) agrees. Saying more would be spoiling. The climax is a mix of triumph and tragedy, but a satisfying blow-out of martial arts action.

It is a good movie with great actors and more than enough entertaining kung fu to keep any fan happy. Yes, there is wire work in some scenes, and one is a bit puzzled that they felt the need for it, since the kung fu they are capable of without it is of such high grade. I don't mind wire work in the more frivolous kung fu adventures, but in more serious movies I think it is mostly unnecessary. However, it is a very good movie in any case.

The new DVD is a nice production, containing a few cast interviews but not much else. The audio is Cantonese with hardcoded English subs. The subtitles are very typical for Asian movies; seemingly a bit too quickly translated (possibly with the aid of a computer), and sometimes disappearing too quickly for us to entirely read them, and stretching so far to either side of the screen that a word or two are sometimes off-screen. But, that's no more than what kung fu movie fans are used to... :-)

My rating: 8 stars out of 10. (Same as I rated the 2008 Ip Man movie.)
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on 28 September 2014
Now this is what I call a trilogy. I am personally interested in Kung Fu and particularly the story of IP Man, which I thought these films provided a reasonable and coherent biography of the man. Although I guess some of the reviewers would be unhappy if this film was watched first and out of context from the other parts.

The filming quality was (I thought) excellent, and unlike some of the other reviewers I prefer non English versions which I believe provides more authenticity to these types of films, and less cringing moments (unlike some of the dreadful dubbing that accompanied the earlier Bruce Lee films.
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on 28 March 2013
Having read mixed reviews about this film, I was unsure quite what to expect. I have seen Ip Man and Ip Man 2, and enjoyed both of those immensely, ranking them amongst my top martial arts films.
This is a story about Ip Man's life and I found it to be a very enjoyable watch indeed. The story is an engaging one and the viewer will see a point to every fight that occurs. Whilst not about non-stop fighting action, the plot and characters draw the viewer in, and I found myself deeply moved during certain scenes.
A number of the fighting scenes are quite superb, and I found myself replaying a numbers of them several times back-to-back during the film and skipping back to them after I'd finished watching it through the first time.
Great story! Engaging characters! Well shot! Some superb fighting!
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on 9 April 2013
IP Mans early life from childhood to the 1930's including his first trip to Hong Kong, Mans father was a wealthy businessman who had an adopted son and a real son who were both enrolled and lived at a Wing Chum school ip was about 10 when this happened and he studied diligently and showed great promise, i wont say more as this will give the story line away..but i can say that there is plenty of authentic Ying Chun on display
included performances from Sammo Hung & Yuen Biao, and IP mans real life son IP Chun..so this film gets an endorsement from him who is now the lineage holder of authentic Wing Chun
and excellent film
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on 20 April 2015
Watched about 5 mins.The quality of the film was dreadful - blurred and very poor definition (watched on a decent Samsung HD Smart TV). Total waste of money and very disappointing. Nothing to do with being sub-titled - that was fine, just the quality of the film itself was horrendous. Why would Amazon even pass this off as an option to view, let alone charge for it!! My first negative review on any website, so not the fussy type.
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on 28 August 2012
Very impressed with the service for the price. The movie itself I think contains better wing chun than the other two though ofcourse it is not as bigger name actors. The only thing I would say is that I think recycling so many of the actors from the first two movies into different characters was a mistake. It was great to see Ip Chun in it as the elderly teacher. Good work all round
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on 12 August 2013
As usual no film jargon.
Did I like it? = yes.
Would I watch it again? = yes.
Value for money? = yes.
A well made entertaining film with some really clever fight scenes.
Dennis To (the star) is not yet of the standard of Donnie Yen (IP Man), but is obviously an up and coming actor in this genre.
Would I recommend? = definitely. RJC
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on 9 July 2012
The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

This film is okay, not bad and not Amazing, the story is about Ip Man's earlier life and how he becomes who he is.
Before you watch Donnie Yen's Ip Man 1 and 2 watch this to give you a background information on Ip Man.
The action is good, not as good as Ip Man 1 and 2.

Overall I give it a 6.5/10
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on 10 December 2014
Great movie, Dennis To does a great job as GrandMaster Ip Man. His wing chun is authentic and much better than anything Donnie Yen shows us in the first two films. It is not made in the same Hollywood style as the first two movies, however it gives a nice insight into the early years of Ip Man, and a lovely appearance from Ip Chun.
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on 22 October 2014
I love this movie as it is story about Ip Man and what I love the most - there is REAL Ip Man Son in this movie too - Ip Chun !!!
And if He decided to tak part in this movie - that means- He must have accepted the story, movements and all related.
So yes - one of these few movies I watch again and again... and again :)))
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