Ip Man has been a part of the Hong Kong action cinema scene since the first film was released in 2008 to great acclaim and big box office. Donnie Yen commanded the role and since then has done two sequels and now the final installment is released to round off the story of this Wing Chun Kung fu master.
Following the death of his wife, Ip Man is having problems with his son who only wants to study Kung fu and is lacking in his academic studies. To help him Ip Man is advised to go to America to try and get his son enrolled in a well-respected school and keep him out of trouble. While in the USA he also will catch up with one of his most famous students, Bruce Lee who is having problems with the local Chinese community for teaching Kung fu to non-Chinese. Also, the news that he has terminal cancer has made him put his life and family into perspective.
After Ip Man 3 there wasn’t really anywhere to go with the story and for people who know the real history of the man will realise the majority of this film is pure fiction. Like Wong Fei Hung before him, these films have turned Ip Man into an icon and as such to quote director John Ford “When you have to choose between history and the legend, print the legend.”
Ip Man 4 The Finale lacks the structure and flow of the previous 3 but also has a good few things to recommend it. Donnie Yen is as good as ever in the role, here a little more mannered and wiser but ready to show his skill when needed. Wu Yue is excellent as the Tai Chi master Wan Zhong Hua who’s daughter bridges the confrontational gap between them. The villains of the film are sadly a bit too stereotypical of the genre, racist western bigots who try and show how bad Chinese martial arts are. Scott Adkins as Marine Barton Geddes is always great to watch and does not disappoint, his battle with both Wan Zhong Hua and Ip Man are both exciting and brutal.
The choreography by Yuen Woo-Ping is thankfully mostly grounded and realistic, unlike his other Ip Man spin-off film Master Z, which was spoilt by overuse of wirework. Bruce Lee is played well and with respect by Kwok Kwan Chan (Shaolin Soccer) and the scene at the end of the film is a nice touch.
While I am sure we will see the character of Ip Man in more films in the future, let’s hope this is Donnie Yen’s final farewell as the iconic character. Not a classic by any means but still a satisfying watch.
7 out of 10