By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Ip Man movie series has been entertaining moviegoers and pushed Donnie Yen to super stardom. Since 2008, Ip Man has fought a Japanese General, British boxer, Frank a.k.a Mike Tyson, numerous Chinese Martial Art Grandmasters, and never lost once! In the finale, Ip Man will have his toughest fight yet.
At the end of “Ip Man 3,” Ip Man had just lost his wife to cancer. We find out immediately that Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is diagnosed with throat cancer from smoking throughout his life. His son, Ip Ching (Ye He) gets expelled from school after another fight, so Ip Man entertains the idea of sending his son to school in America. After receiving an invitation and plane ticket from Bruce Lee to fly to San Francisco to witness a karate tournament, he uses that as an excuse to check out America. Ip Man learns from his friend, Liang Gen, that a recommendation letter from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association led by President Wan Zong Hua (Yue Wu) will be required for his son to enter an elite private school. The associations are displeased that Ip Man’s student, Bruce Lee (Kwok-Kwan Chan), has been opening his school up to Americans and wants Ip Man to intervene if he wants his letter. Ip Man leaves without agreeing to their demands.
Ip Man heads to the private school for an interview, but is unable to get his son enrolled. After the interview, he notices Yoneh (Vanda Margraf) getting bullied and intervenes. Ip Man learns Yoneh is the daughter of Wan Zong Hua. Meanwhile a student of Bruce Lee, Hartman (Vaness Wu), is trying to get his Gunnery Sergeant, Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins), to integrate martial arts into their Marines combat training. He is forced to prove himself by fighting their karate instructor, Colin Frater (Chris Collins), to a duel, but loses. Everything pretty much leads up to more fighting. It’s business as usual in the Ip Man finale and what we are here to see.
The plot is convoluted, but everything gets resolved at the end by fighting, of course. Going by the 1960s San Francisco setting, Ip Man is supposed to be in his 70s. That is okay because no one said this was a historically accurate movie, so Ip Man still looks youthful. As usual, Ip Man barely gets a scratch on him until the final fight. I felt “Ip Man 4” is a mix of Ip Man 1 and 2.
Let’s talk about Bruce Lee, Ip Man’s most famous student. I was satisfied with the way Bruce Lee was depicted in this movie and definitely much better than what I saw in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (OUTH). Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, was displeased at her late father’s portrayal in OUTH and has not given a statement about “Ip Man 4” at the time of printing. Lee has limited screen time, but from what I saw, it was positive. He ends up assisting Ip Man in various ways throughout the movie, but the focus is very much on Ip Man.
I am going to miss that epic Ip Man theme composed by Kenji Kawai, who did the soundtrack for all four Ip Man movies. There is a nice tribute at the end of the film to Ip Man’s life. It is hard to believe Ip Man died on Dec. 2, 1972, only seven months before Bruce Lee.
Thank you, Donnie Yen, for the good times—this is not only the last Ip Man film but also Donnie Yen’s final kung fu film. This is like another movie saga ending in 2019! Be sure to catch Donnie as a General in the upcoming Disney’s “Mulan.”
Ip Man 4: The Finale is playing at AMC Pacific Place, Cinemark Lincoln Square, and Regal Thornton Place.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.