Growing up as an action movie junkie I ventured over to the genre of martial-arts films long ago, and still hold an affinity for them all these years later. Ip Man was a character Donnie Yen brought to life like only he could. Since then, there have been many films with the Ip Man name attached with other actors playing the titular character. The newest, Young Ip Man (aka Young Ip Man: Crisis Time) is from Liming Li who also directed 2019’s Ip Man: Kung Fu Master.
Set in the early 1900’s this story centers around (naturally) a younger Ip Man who travels to Hong Kong to study but finds his attempt at a peaceful college life ruined when the school campus is stormed by terrorists, and as a hostage situation ensues, Young Ip Man will unleash his repertoire of skills to stop them. So, it’s a straightforward plotline for a contained martial-arts actioner. If you enjoy this genre, and have an allowance for weaker storytelling, then there is enjoyment to be found in this movie simply for its action.
It does, however, have its flaws. As I mentioned, the plot is basic, and for the most part the acting is serviceable at best. Zhao Wenhao as Young Ip Man has his moments, but overall, he feels a bit too flat. He feels stiff in the role and without a natural vibe he never really delivers any human qualities to connect with. The performance of the villain was almost comical at times with the mass amount of overacting he delivers. Which admittedly does hinder his intimidation factor immensely. But I won’t fault the movie for that so much since there’s clearly a focus on having a lighter, more family friendly tone. So, this cartoonish vibe to the heavies does soften the overall theme of a hostage situation in a school.
This lighter atmosphere on the other hand does result in a widely uneven tone. Young Ip Man has trouble balancing the humor with the drama and leans into either way too much. It’s either super silly or super serious. Some scenes are intended to be extremely dramatic. Then the next will have characters dropping lighthearted dialogue and neither really complements the other to give this movie a smooth flow. Young Ip Man also only really feels like an Ip Man movie by name. There isn’t really an exploration of his character, the school takeover happens quickly and is the focus throughout over ever getting to know any of the characters.
However, with a tight 80-minute runtime the teenage soap opera atmosphere of the story is enough to connect all the action together. The fight choreography here is nicely crafted. It’s fast, crisp, and well shot. Where the rest of this movie may be limited with a smaller budget, the martial-arts action doesn’t share the same limitations. There’s a creativity to the fighting and the stunt work overall is well-crafted. Young Ip Man may have its hindrances in narrative, but in the action department it’s actually quite good. The confined locations of this school provide unique backdrops for the fight-sequences and despite not really feeling violent, these scenes are adrenaline pumping.
Cast: Zhao Wenhao, Mou Fengbin, Li Haoxuan, Shao Xia, Shi Yuqing, Tong Xiaohu, Xi Erzhati Director: Li Liming Writer: Li Liming Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment Running Time: 79 minutes Rating: Not Rated (Violence) Language: Chinese/Mandarin Genre: Martial Arts/Adventure/Action Year: China 2020, U.S. 2023
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.