BLU-RAY REVIEW: IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT (2013)

ip man final fight coverIP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT a.k.a. Yip Man: Jung gik yat jin (2013), the 4th and seemingly final entry in the widely and internationally popular IP MAN series that explores the legendary Wing Chun teacher and Grandmaster Yip Man (also spelled Ip Man and known as Yip Kai-man), is the story of the later years in the extraordinary teacher’s life when he was living in Hong Kong. It also was during this time period (later on) that Ip Man’s most celebrated student, Bruce Lee, rose to fame as not only a Martial Artist but also as a movie store in Hong Kong and in Hollywood.

Myself being a huge fan of the IP MAN series, owner of them all and also having reviewed the first film in the series in 2008 here (sorry if the review is not up to par with more current ones as it is almost 6 years old), I really was hoping that the film was going to be as enjoyable and action-packed as all the other films, all the while retaining the beauty and detailed story of the times and social conflict/issues happening in China (or in this case–Hong Kong) at the time. The director of THE FINAL FIGHT, Herman Yau, had previously directed the prior entry in the Ip Man series, THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN (2010), but was more familiar with me for a handful of his earlier films such as THE UNTOLD STORY (1993) starring Anthony Wong and co-directed with Danny Lee (who also starred in it), TAXI HUNTER (1993) also with Anthony Wong, and EBOLA SYNDROME (1996) again starring Anthony Wong. Director Yau and Actor Wong have quite a history of working on films together, it seems.

The rest of the cast seemed first rate and includes a group of some of his first students, coming from all job backgrounds and thoughts of what Wing Chun Kung Fu means to them. Some of the other cast members will be familiar to those who are avid Hong Kong action film fans or fans of films from Asia. The very familiar Eric Tsang (INFERNAL AFFAIRS 1,2,3) is cast as Ng Chung, the head of another Kung Fu school whose students get in a scrap with Ip Man’s students leading to the inevitable: a confrontation that is both full of class and one of the most brilliantly choreographed Martial Arts battles put to film. Veteran actor Tsang, nearly (if not already) 60 years old did all his own stunts in the epic battle scene (as did Wong who had to learn Wing Chun Kung Fu and took lessons for almost a year) and already had a background in Martial Arts. In fact, as far as epic Martial Arts scenes go, only in some of the other IP MAN films have I seen battles choreographed just as good (if not only slightly better).

Some of the other actors and actresses portraying Ip Man’s students are newcomer Marvel Chow portraying Wang Dong, a hothead and solid fighter who fights in the walled city of the Kowloon ghetto for money and his own macho attitude proving to himself he is a badass fighter. [SPOILER] His wife later in the film, also a student of Ip Man’s, Chan Sei-mui (played by actress Gillian Chung) plays a dim sum waitress who really likes Japanese Manga and wants to be like the ass-kicking superheroes she idolizes. Another character in the film who proves to be an interesting dynamic to the film’s plot, as well making a statement on the values and politics of the a Hong Kong policeman whose job is to uphold justice and the law is Tang Shing, portrayed by Jordan Chan (BIG BULLET (1996), BIO ZOMBIE (1998)) who really deals with the morality and power that his job provides. The aspect of not only the physical power Wing Chun Kung Fu offers but the spiritual and moral compass adhering to the Martial Art’s values is evident in scenes with Chan’s character seeking counsel and advice from Ip Man (Wong).

Ip Man’s wife Cheung Wing-sing is played by the lovely actress Anita Yuen (THUNDERBOLT (1995)) and shows the tender side of Ip Man and gives Wong’s performance in doing so such a well-rounded display of different emotions and shows his versatility as an actor. Ip Man’s mistress in the story, Chan Sei-mui, ever so beautifully portrayed by the extremely attractive Gillian Chung (VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003) is in some of the saddest scenes of the whole film, especially after Ip Man’s wife is no longer allowed back in Hong Kong (as is anyone else) due to China’s traveling restrictions. The scenes in which Wong shares meals, walks, and time spent with Sei-mui (Chung) are filled with a tenderness that gives a balance to the rest of the film where swift kicks, punches, elbows, and strikes prevail on-screen depicting the disputes and battles that those in Hong Kong had during the ’50s and ’60s in those turbulent times.

If the incredibly choreographed authentic Wing Chun Kung Fu scenes don’t grab your attention, maybe the incredibly detailed and authentic recreation of Hong Kong during this time period will. The set, all built to scale and including every little detail of accuracy (minus having a VW Van that I read may have been months or even a year before its time in one scene of the film) in the restaurants, shops, homes, and places of business. I have to give mad props to the crew that worked on the design of the city. Within the special features of the Blu-ray disc (which looks absolutely gorgeous in 1080p high-defintion, I might add), lead actor Anthony Wong goes on and on about how amazed he was with the set and how much it brought him and some of the other actors and actresses back to growing up in Hong Kong during this time period (especially Eric Tsang).

As word of Wing Chun and its effectiveness in fighting spreads, inevitably the Triad leader of the “Walled City” in Kowloon gets involved with one of Ip Man’s students who is fighting for money when he wants the undefeated fighter to throw a fight and lose. The crooked cop, Tang Shing (Chan), shows the Triad leader Dragon Head (Xiong Xin-xin also known as Hung Yan-yan) (TAI CHI ZERO (2012), THE BLADE (1995)) that Wing Chun is not a Martial Art easily beaten nor one where the fighter will just allow one’s self to lose on purpose. The local Triad leader decides to try to fix a fight and in the process gets Ip Man involved with the activities of the Walled City and sets up the final epic battle pitting a tough, face-scarred bad guy battling the virtuous and kind-hearted Ip Man in a good vs. evil fight. Xiong Xin-xin is himself a very skilled Martial Artist and was the stunt double for Martial Arts superstar Jet Li.

Also in this final fight is an extraordinary Martial Artist, Cambodian Ken Lo also known as Kenneth Lo Wai-Kwong (LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE (2011)), who not only is a solid actor in action flicks, but he also is a former Muay Thai champion, and was hired as Jackie Chan as his personal bodyguard, and part of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. His Muay Thai fighting background definitely comes into play in the final fight scene, as well as in the scene with the dragon heads for the contest which Eric Tsang’s character Ng Chung and his school compete in on tall wooden poles which was a very well choreographed scene as well. One knew that Lo’s character Wei Batian would be back at some point for revenge in some way.

Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release of IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT looks superb in high-definition and the bonus materials included are a “Making of” Featurette that is brief but interesting, as well as Cast and Crew Interviews with Producer Checkley Sin, Action Choreographer Li Chung-chi, and a number of the actors and actresses including Eric Tsang, Anita Yuen, Xiong Xin-xin, Jordan Chan, and of course, Anthony Wong. Included are the International Trailer and the U.S. Trailer. The film runs 101 minutes and even with all the action and violence in the film, it is only rated PG-13.

I can not recommend seeing IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT enough and if one has not seen ANY of the entries in the series, I implore one to go out right now and rent them ( I mean jump on your computer and stream them or download them) or buy them because they are some of the coolest and greatest Martial Arts Action Films currently made. Not since Bruce Lee’s films and Jet Li’s FIST OF LEGEND (1994) (actually a different plot but same premise of Bruce Lee’s THE CHINESE CONNECTION in which both Li and Lee are portraying Chen Zhen, the 5th disciple of Master Huo Yuanjia who returns to China after his master’s death to avenge him and uncover the circumstances of his murder) have I seen such fantastic Martial Arts fight choreography that displayed great realism. I am dismissing much of the wired fight theatrics and ridiculously unbelievably sequences in films of the period that were and I guess, still are very popular at the time. As fun as Shaw Brothers films were, some days I just wanted a realistically filmed action sequence.  The IP MAN films give me that.

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