Movie Reviews

‘Ip Man: The Final Fight’: Endgame for Ip Man?

By Tay Yek KeakMovies - 05 April 2013 11:35 AM | Updated 09 April 2013

‘Ip Man: The Final Fight’: Endgame for Ip Man?

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Uncle Ip Man – age 50 – hits a wooden dummy in slo-mo like he’s patting an old friend or he’s hurting because he’s run out of medicated oil for bruises.

Wait… Another Ip Man movie?

With Anthony Wong, the angmoh-looking cop-and-crook character actor from ‘Hard Boiled’ (1992) to ‘Infernal Affairs’ (2002) to ‘Motorway’ (2012) as the Wing Chun master?

Can he even fight?

Well, he can.

The way a pro stunt team with wire, padding and 50 insurance forms can make anybody – including your granny – kick down a house.

So, the “hoooot ah” mass brawls between Ip’s men (and women) and their various opponents – a rival gongfu gang led by Eric Tsang (sparring with his giggle-inducing brand of Gongfu Chubby), a bunch of vicious thugs, and even the police – are entertainingly well-staged.

Donnie Yen (True Ip to most fans), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (the moody arthouse chap in ‘The Grandmaster’) and Dennis To (the young punk in ‘The Legend Is Born’) did their versions of the dude as a vigorous fellow, all decked out to fight baddies as an upright totem pole.

This ‘Ip Man: The Final Fight’, an enjoyably light trot that serves as some kind of shallow winding-down biopic, is the retiree version – or more accurately, the contented-teacher version.

Hong Kong wants to go back to the good old days to reclaim its fave WC son.

To repackage its icon – the teacher of Bruce Lee – as its own permanent-resident sifu by turning him into a humble Ah Pek that’s easy to connect to in an old-fashioned, chop-socky, traditional HK cinema way, especially if you’re 150 years old.

So, all that deep Zen baggage from Foshan (Ip Man’s ancestral home in China) previously depicted as a mysterious, mystical time in Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’ is dropped.

Except for Anita Yuen looking like a melancholic saint as Mrs Ip who visits him from the old country, this is about a historical life left behind. 

Instead, load the show with the fun luggage of a man newly arrived.

It is the early 1950s, and Ip Man migrates to Hong Kong and teaches a group of impulsive, combative students on the rooftop of a building above a busy, bustling street where the city is transforming with labour union strikes, gangsters in the crime-infested Walled City, and corrupt cops led by mean colonial gweilos.

It feels so familiar because Gillian Chung plays a fresh-faced eager trouper in his class, Jordan Chan is a conflicted cop-disciple torn between love for his master and love of money, and the pai kias who get whacked are all HK faces you know from the triad films Andy Lau made 500 times over.    

Above this heady state of affairs, Ip Man walks patiently about in his retiring ways and tells his students sagaciously that Wing Chun is “not about picking fights, it’s about developing your well-being.”        

Director Herman Yau, who’s moved from helming Young Ip in ‘The Legend Is Born’ (2010) to Old Ip here, isn’t looking for enlightenment, controversy or the painstaking accuracy which numbed ‘The Grandmaster’ into a coma. He just wants to tell a good yarn.

He portrays Mr Ip as a displaced wandering soul which hovers long enough for another wandering spirit – a lonely songstress-hussy named Jenny (China actress Zhou Chuchu) who intrudes in her sexy qipao to nest with the master and pi** off his highly protective students.

Zhou is so flirty-coy sashaying in to bring the old guy comfort food that I would book her for five consecutive nights at the Golden Chicken KTV.

Wait a minute – Ip Man as an Ah Pek seduced by a China girl as though he’s a Geylang uncle?

I keep asking if this part of the WC dude’s life is so interesting, then why the hell didn’t anybody do this before?

I mean, is this true?  

Patience, my friends, as Ip Old Man would say.

For that, we’ll need to wait for yet another version of the story.

Either Ip Chick or Ip B***h.

‘Ip Man: The Final Fight’ is still showing in theatres