Ip Man 2 traces another fictionalized arc in the Yip’s life. Following his first journey to Hong Kong for educational purposes and the development of his Wing Chun skills. I’m not sure if the real Yip Man had a half-Japanese brother – probably not. But this angle is played up for maximum conflict. The real problem with the film’s screenplay is that it often feels like a montage of Ip Man’s early life. A ‘cliff notes’ take on its protagonist, whereas Donnie Yen’s films excelled at choosing a period in Ip Man’s life and telling a complete story from there. There are times when “The Legend is Born” feels entirely superficial in comparison to the first “Ip Man”. And the low production values certainly don’t help.
But fortunately Ip Man 2 (Diep Van 2) excels where it counts: the fight scenes. Despite a slow stretch towards the start of the third act, this film is fairly packed with action. The choreography is by Tony Leung Siu Hung, an underrated action director who has worked on many classic Hong Kong films and helmed the 90’s Gary Daniels flick “Bloodmoon”.
Dennis To practiced Wing Chun for six years before his break into acting. While anyone who’s seen “The Story of Ricky” or the first “Ip Man” knows that Fong Sai Hung can kick ass. Toss in some fight scenes for Yuen Biao and a surprise cameo from the actual Yip Man’s real life son. Ip Chung, and “The Legend is Born” has the chance to win over even the most staunch Donnie Yen (Chung Tu Don) fan.
This is not the first martial art movie (phim hanh dong vo thuat) about Ip Man and it won’t be the last. Wong Kar-Wai has his own take on Master Yip coming sometime next year. Donnie Yen’s achievements may tower over “The Legend is Born” but there’s enough about this would-be prequel to recommend. Even with a slightly un-involving performance from Dennis To, supporting turns from HK veterans like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao help color the film. And the fight choreography from Tony Leung Siu Hung is topnotch. If you’re curious to learn more about the life of Ip Man. Albeit in a highly fictionalized and exaggerated context. Then “The Legend is Born” should prove enjoyable.