|A scene from Ip Man: The Final Fight.|
By John Esther
Over the past five years there has been a great influx of films about Ip Man (AKA Yip Man), a Chinese martial artist whose greatest claim to fame is that he taught Wing Chun to martial artist legend Bruce Lee.
In 2008, Donnie Yen starred as the titular character in Ip Man, and then reprised the role in the 2010 film, Ip Man 2. That same year, The Legend is Born – Ip Man was released. Ip Man also appeared in the 2010 Chinese TV series, The Legend of Bruce Lee as well as the current Chinese TV series, The Legend of Ip Man. Noted director Wong Kar-wai’s recent film, The Grandmaster, stars Tony Leung as the great master in 1930s China. And now comes director Herman Yau and writer Erica Lee’s version, Ip Man: The Final Fight.
Something of a part III to the Yen films, Ip Man: The Final Fight focuses on the later years of Ip Man (Anthony Wong) as he is once again forced to save the day. This time the enemy is organized crime, which has been allowed to run rampant by the powers that be in order to break up the unions.
Like the Ip Man films starring Yau, Ip Man: The Final Fight paces itself quite nicely, for the most part, between story and choreographed martial arts. Unlike many an American action film, Ip Man: The Final Fight begins with story before swinging in action – which is only a brief scene to establish Ip Man’s martial arts superiority and why people wanted to learn from him. However, as the film progresses there are quite a few fight scenes which are forced, but is that not what the audiences are here: to see some fights!
While the film is adequately entertaining as an action film and politically significant as the unions are shown in a positive light, Ip Man: The Final Fight, like the Yen films, takes great autobiographical liberties with its protagonist. While some liberties may be “excused” for dramatic effect (such as the film’s portrayal of Ip Man’s martial arts schools on the rooftop), trying to rewrite history is another thing. In real life, Ip Man was a cop and member of the Chinese Nationalist Party, so it would have been nearly impossible that he would have fought on the side of labor. Then there is a scene where he scolds his new and younger love, Jenny (Zhou Chuchu), for using opium during his recovery. In real life, Ip Man was known to have used opium (at least in his latter Hong Kong days).
Ip Man was a notable martial arts instructor, he was not a saint. Perhaps someday, somebody will make an accurate film about the man. Meanwhile, we have these kung fu pseudo-biopics to entertain us.