Yip Wai-shun’s biopic about Bruce Lee’s martial arts mentor takes plenty of liberties with the facts but none that can’t be forgiven in the name of kungfu kickin’ fun. Donnie Yen (above) delivers a charismatic portrayal of Ip Man, the martial arts master of the title. We first catch him facing off a group of thugs as he pulls off defensive combos of such skill that he’s soon the talk of his town.
The first part of this likeable actioner sticks to the age-old kung fu template of poor acting and ridiculous fight-scene sound effects. But it takes a darker turn when, in 1937, the town is besieged by Japanese troops and everyone has to beg for work. Will Ip Man take up the offer of a Japanese officer’s clemency in exchange for teaching his troops? Yip’s film benefits from crisp cinematography and an engaging ‘Seven Samurai’-style storyline, but it’s Sammo Hung’s superbly choreographed kick-ass fight scenes that dazzle.