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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT

ip man the final fight film review
Latest addition to the growing sub-genre of biopics of the legendary martial artist.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Herman Yau

Starring: Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Gillian Chung, Jordan Chan, Eric Tsang

ip man the final fight uk dvd

Ip Man, for the uninitiated, was a real-life Chinese martial artist: perhaps THE martial artist, as in his capacity as a teacher of the Wing Chun discipline, he was mentor to several important future masters of the martial arts, including some fella named Bruce Lee. Born in 1893 and dying in 1972, Ip Man’s life incorporated many monumental events in Chinese history; the Second-Sino Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and two massive World Wars along with their ensuing domestic fall outs. It is no wonder that this seminal figure, who, aside from his huge influence as a martial artist seems fascinating as a flawed but determined personality, continues to be immortalised within cinema and other mediums. The primary cycle of Ip Man films starred the great Donnie Yen as Ip across three movies (2008-15). However, Yen presciently expressed concern about the number of Ip Man films in the works, worrying that the subject matter would be ‘diluted’ with such incessant representation. And indeed, there followed Wong Kar-wai's historical focussed The Grandmaster, a 2013 television series based on Ip Man’s life, and occasional random entries like Herman Yau’s The Legend Is Born: Ip Man and its sort of sequel Ip Man: The Final Fight.

ip man the final fight

Here, your man Anthony Wong plays a much older Ip Man, an aging mentor to a group of misfits within a tumultuous Hong Kong. The mise-en-scene of Ip Man: The Final Fight is historical-gorgeous, with lush period recreation and a colourful Hong Kong circa 1950. At the fringes of the city, however, insurgency bubbles due to various national conflicts, giving way to civil unrest and an opportunistic Yakuza. Ip Man’s school and students are caught in the middle: trade union disputes lead to industrial action and poverty, Ip Man’s wife is not allowed to re-enter Hong Kong, and the lure of dangerous underground fighting for ready money is an ever-present temptation for students with fists of fury and nothing to lose.

ip man the final fight

As Ip Man, Wong imbues his performance with the sort of weary authentic dignity we’d expect from a cinematic grand master. The real life Ip Man’s alleged opium addiction is poo-pooed within the film: this Ip Man has a ‘no nonsense approach’, and is a moral touchstone within the mass corruption and enticements of the city. For a real-life story, Ip Man: The Final Fight seems unafraid to reel out such genre tropes within its supposed fealty to historical events. Herein lies the film’s inconsistency; Ip Man: The Final Fight isn’t generic enough for the action fans, or historically accurate in a way that would satisfy audiences interested in biopics. Scenes of fights are few and far between; in a fantasy sequence that serves as a visualisation of Ip Man’s mythologising at the hands of the press, we see mad wire-fu and exciting fisticuffs in the rain. The film draws a distinction (for the most part, at least) between such pyrotechnics and the supposed reality of hand to hand combat, yet otherwise presents a melodrama narrative that is in its own way as hyperbolic and artificial as the highly choreographed sequence we are denied.

ip man the final fight

Having a film about a martial arts master with sparse action is a bit like having a musical biopic with few musical interludes, and while Ip Man: The Final Fight is gorgeous to look at, the ostensible narrative of the school and the students isn’t enough to carry the film. As good as Wong is, his Ip Man is at the end of his life and tether and the film doesn’t have anything to really offer towards this charismatic figure save for a quiet reverence. Nevertheless, towards the end, there is a mass melee involving a pregnant woman kicking ass, drugged students, a Yakuza with the scarred face of a Bond villain and no sparing of the beautiful, balletic motion of Wing Chun’s violent dance. It is awesome. Perhaps with its alliterative subtitle Ip Man: The Final Fight offers its audience a hint towards what to hold on for throughout its otherwise routine narrative.

Ip Man: The Final Fight is available on VOD June 5th, DVD/blu-ray June 12th.



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