From the director of The Legend is Born: Ip Man (2010) comes this exciting installment of the Ip Man film legacy, driven by an energetic performance by Anthony Wong as the legendary Wing Chun grandmaster.
In 1960’s Hong Kong, Ip Man heads to Hong Kong, where he meets young kung fu expert Leung Sheung. Leung, the head of the Restaurant Workers’ Union, is impressed with Master Ip’s Wing Chun and asks to be his student. Unable to run a proper school due to lack of sponsors, Leung offers Ip the rooftop to a local restaurant to teach the art to various students, including cop Tang Sing, activist Lee King, and young Sei-Mui.
Slowly, things begin to become complicated for Master Ip. First, there is the fact his wife Wing-Sing had some to Hong Kong only to return home. Second, some of Ip’s students cause trouble with a rival school run by Master Ng Chung. Third, Jenny, a nightclub singer who was rescued by Master Ip, slowly falls for him. Lastly, Tang Sing is somehow bribed into joining forces with local gang boss Dragon, who organizes fights in an abandoned warehouse in the Walled City with one of its top fighters being Ip’s student Wong Tung, who has married Sei-Mui.
While many fans will more take note of Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip’s take on the Ip Man legend from 2008 and 2010, one cannot help but resist Herman Yau’s takes on the legend. In 2010, Yau collaborated with Wing Chung master and filmmaker Checkly Sin (whose lineage in the art traces back to Ip Man himself) to make The Legend is Born: Ip Man with martial artist Dennis To in the lead role. Yau and Sin return to make a sort of finale to the legacy with this film.
This time, Hong Kong veteran Anthony Wong takes on the role of Master Ip. Wong, himself a martial artist, underwent training in Wing Chun from Sin for the film and performs is beautifully. However, Wong is one of the top actors in Hong Kong, making any role work well no matter how good or bad the film is. Here, he drives the film and performs very well as the elder Ip Man, who despite sticking to his philosophy of Wing Chun, must somehow adapt to the times.
What is great about this film is that it is not just another mindless film about Ip Man and the fact that yes, his student was Bruce Lee. The film deals with the era of Hong Kong from the early sixties to just near his passing in 1972. Ip Man’s son Chun, played here by Zhang Song-Wen, is the narrator and there are mentions of Lee in one scene. The film depicts a sense of realism underneath the story of Ip Man when it comes to Hong Kong in the sixties and it is this juxtaposition that works very well as opposed to being another straight action tale.
The film’s action sequences were done by Checkly Sin and former Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Nicky Li. Sin, along with co-star Marvel Chow, served as Wing Chun consultants. As mentioned, Wong performs his fight scenes very well. The favorite has to be Ip Man vs. Ng Chung, played by another Hong Kong veteran, Eric Tsang. Tsang, usually known for his comedic roles in the Lucky Stars films of the eighties, actually started out as a stuntman and director of classic kung fu films. It is refreshing to see him in a full martial arts master role and he performs well in his fight scene against Wong. Playing Ip’s students are Timmy Hung (son of Sammo), Coweb’s Luxia Jiang, and Twins’ Gillian Chung. This trio, along with Marvel Chow, performs well in their action scenes. Ken Lo shows he hasn’t lost a step as Dragon’s right hand man, Iron Fist Ngai, even taking on both Hung and Jiang at the same time for part of their climactic bout. The only letdown, and it wasn’t that big of a letdown, was the “final fight” of the title, pitting Ip against Dragon. As a wushu champion from Mainland China, it didn’t seem necessary for Xiong Xin-Xin to use wire enhancements for his role of Dragon. However, there were some used when Dragon throws some kicks and compared to Wong using Wing Chun, it took away some of the realism and tenacity of the other fight scenes.
Ip Man: The Final Fight is definitely a worthy installment despite a bit of a letdown in the lack of realism in the final fight scene. Anthony Wong truly drives the film as an elderly martial arts grandmaster who despite adapting to the time, sticks to his philosophy of his passion of martial arts. Definitely a must see, especially if you have a liking for Ip Man.
WFG RATING: B
Emperor Motion Pictures presents a National Arts Films Productions Limited production. Director: Herman Yau. Producers: Checkley Sin, Albert Lee, Cherry Law, and Catherine Hun. Writer: Erica Li; story by Checkley Sin. Cinematography: Joe Chan and Mandy Ngai. Editing: Azrael Chung.
Cast: Anthony Wong, Gillian Chung, Jordan Chan, Marvel Chow, Eric Tsang, Zhou Chu-Chu, Timmy Hung, Jiang Luxia, Xiong Xin-Xin, Anita Yuen, Yip Chun.