Ip Man 4: The Finale (2019)
Starring: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Kwok Kwan Chan
Star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip return to bring us the fourth and final installment of their epic biopic series charting the life and times of the famous martial artist Ip Man, who’s life story has been overshadowed by that of his more famous protege the international Kung Fu sensation Bruce Lee.
I have never seen any of the other Ip Man movies from Donnie Yen and to be honest I thought they looked kind of dull. I tried to watch The Grand Master (2013) which was another movie about the same character and that film is beautiful but unbelievably boring. I’m pleased to say that this one, in comparison to The Grand Master, is made more like a traditional Kung Fu movie and provided me with a good couple of hours’ worth of fairly exhilirating entertainment without ever going off the boil long enough for boredom to set in, despite a large portion of the film being in Chinese. Having seen it I actually can’t wait to seek out the previous three movies in the series, which feature Mike Tyson in the third one and Sammo Hung in the second. Both Tyson and Hung appear briefly in a montage at the end of this movie as well.
God knows how true to real life these movies actually are, but this installment finds the good natured martial artist (now in advancing years and declining health) traveling to America to look for a suitable school for his unruly son to attend. The kid wants to learn martial arts but the old man has other ideas. Sadly, his wife has passed away and he himself has been diagnosed with throat cancer, so he doesn’t have much time to get things settled. Once in San Fransisco he must face the wrath of the local Chinese Benevolent Association who are pissed off about his former student Bruce Lee teaching martial arts to foreigners and then he becomes embroiled in a bitter battle between the local chinese immigrant community and US Immigration authorities who are cracking down on them and even want to destroy China Town. There’s also a strand to the story which has a Chinese recruit in the American Marines trying to have Kung Fu recognised as part of their hand to hand fighting training, much to the chargrin of gunnery sergeant Geddes. He’s dead against Kung Fu being adopted by the marines because he, apparently, prefers karate, which was slightly surprising given that his character is a completely over the top racist who despises anything foreign, so you’d think Japanese karate was the last thing he’d want the recruits practising. Just listen to him schooling his men in the trailer: “America is the greatest and most powerful country on Earth. Is that understood?!” Make no mistake, the ‘whities’ are the baddies in this picture, whether it’s Adkins bullying the ethnic minorities amongst his recruits, immigration authorities treating the honest and hard working Chinese unfairly or resentful white cheer leaders bullying the pretty Chinese girl at school.
Bruce Lee is also a character in this, and is played by Kwok Kwan Chan, who was Bruce Lee in Ip Man 3 and the TV series ‘The Legend of Bruce Lee’ and he does a great job. It’s funny to see how Lee is portrayed here after the controversy surrounding Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. To the Chinese Lee is a hero of course, but he still manages to come across as pretty damn arrogant in this film, albeit without a shred of irony. In all fairness, if I could kick ass the way he does I’d be arrogant as well. It was quite pleasing to hear Lee’s trademark line “wooden boards don’t fight back, I do” when taking on an enormous Chuck Norris looking beast.
A lot of readers will be particularly interested in this for Adkins’ appearance. I started to fear we might be short changed on that front, because it seemed to be about an hour into the film before he was even introduced, however, once he’s in the picture he’s a fairly major character and he has a couple of decent fight scenes, including a big bout againt Donnie Yen. Adkins is a good actor, but a lot of the other western actors in this are pretty fucking dire. It’s like most actors just automatically put in a half arsed performance when they’re doing a foreign film. However, that just seems to add to the movie’s charm to be honest. Donnie Yen is actually wonderful as the titular character.
It’s a simple, perhaps slightly long winded, but ultimately quite touching drama about a real life legend, punctuated by some entertaining and very well done fight scenes. It glorifies the Chinese at the expense of the westerners (the only redeemable non-Chinese character amongst the lot that I can remember was a black guy) but if you can take that with a pinch of salt, the film has a lot to offer. I’d watch it again.
No wonder this has given Star Wars a beating at the Chinese box office. The fuck would you go and see Star Wars when you can see this instead?
7 out of 10