Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Cast: Anthony Wong, Gillian Chung, Jordan Chan, Eric Tsang, and Marvel Chow

Director: Herman Yau

100 minutes (15) 2013
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia blu-ray region B
[Released 12th June]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Jeff Young

A biographical action drama set in post-war Hong Kong, this chronicles the last chapter in the life of a martial arts grandmaster who became Bruce Lee’s teacher. The famous Wing Chun warrior and scholar, Ip Man here gets an immensely sympathetic portrayal by great British-Chinese actor Anthony Wong with his quiet dignity concealing an indomitable will. Previously played by Donnie Yen in Wilson Yip’s series, Ip Man (2008), Ip Man 2 (2010), and Ip Man 3 (2015), and by Tony Leung in Wong Kar-Wai’s stylish The Grandmaster (2013), Ip Man is certainly something of a genre giant whose fascinating life-story offers a variety of interpretations in movies that range from docudrama to outright fantasy-fu.

This rather melancholy picture favours the realistic, as Ip Man lives under the constraints of poverty, willing to teach disciples and students but wholly reluctant to risk running an academy on business terms. In a pivotal sequence, he fights Master Ng (Eric Tsang) who runs a friendly rival school of kung fu. After that, competitive acrobatics in the lion dance turn into a brawl between gangs with political and criminal ambitions behind the violence and chaos. Following the death of his wife, Ip Man finds comfort in his relationship with a singer, until his son Chun moves from the family’s home in Foshan to live in Hong Kong.

Finally, a typhoon and murderous treachery strike at once, leading to a moral challenge from top villain, kingpin Dragon, who rules a boxing ring in the walled city. Ip Man: The Final Fight offers a tale of loyalty and honour in a crucible of social distress and political turmoil. It focuses upon heroism as a matter of natural survival within a cine-framework that blends cultural asides, nostalgic reverie, and emotional transparency. We see how Ip Man suffered bouts of poor health that are just as important in this drama as the fighting sequences. The movie ends with historical points, as Ip Man is visited by the enthusiastic Bruce Lee, and actor Wong performs Wing Chun on film “for posterity,” followed by a clip from the actual documentary footage.

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