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Ip Man 4: The Finale (Yip man: Yuen gitpin) Film Review
Donnie Yen returns to close out Wilson Yip’s popular 'Ip Man' biopic series, this time with support from action stalwarts Wu Yue and Scott Adkins.

[Image: 220px-Ip_Man_4.jpg]

The legendary Hong Kong martial arts master Ip Man is kind of like Journey to the West: Both are the source material for books, manhua, TV series and films that keep on giving. Like Journey, Ip Man and his work have been immortalized in media time and again. There’s Herman Yau’s two-parter, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man; the Anthony Wong-led Ip Man: The Final Fight; and the loosely connected de facto spinoff of director Wilson Yip's series starring Zhang Jin, Master Z: The Yip Man Legacy. Tony Leung played him in Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, and there are at least two Chinese TV series based on his life.
Regardless of his reported wish to be done with the role following Ip Man 3 in 2015, actor-producer Donnie Yen returns for one last crunching kick at the can in Yip's Ip Man 4: The Finale. While not as strong, or nuanced, an entry as any of the three that preceded it, Yen once again proves at 56 to be something of an ageless wonder. Though he's clearly tempering the number of demanding set pieces squeezed into each of his films and sharing the workload with others, Yen is still the star attraction if his name is above the title. Slated for a Christmas Day release stateside, The Finale will win over action fans with Star Wars fatigue (you can actually see what's going on here), and Yen's fanbase in all markets is sure to respond. The film will have a healthy life in targeted release beyond Asia.

The Finale picks up in 1964 with Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (Yen) going about his business in Hong Kong, doing his best to raise his surly son Jing on his own. Being a teen, Jing tends to get into fights at school and has no interest in studying. An invitation to visit former student Bruce Lee (Chan Kwok-kwan, doing a pretty good Lee) at a tournament in San Francisco provides an opportunity for Ip, who has been diagnosed with cancer, to find Jing a good school and set him up for the coming years.

In California, Ip meets with the Chinese Benevolent Association and its tai chi master Wan Zhong Hua (Wu Yue). In mid-'60s America, a Chinese student wasn't getting into a good school without a tuition guarantor, and so Ip is compelled to seek a letter of recommendation from the CBA. Naturally, Wan and the other old-school masters are miffed that Ip's former apprentice Lee is taking martial arts beyond the confines of the Chinese community — he wrote a manual in English! They demand he set the fiery young man right before any letter is written, but Ip declines.

The conflict between the CBA and Ip and Lee's more forward thinking underpins the rest of the story, which this go around touches on all sorts of thorny — and ongoing — issues, among them isolationism versus integration, racism, privilege and power. As facile and on the nose as some of the dialogue may be (at one point, a particularly incensed suburban housewife demands her husband "have those filthy Chinese deported!"), it's not historically untrue; better actors might have helped.
When Ip witnesses Wan's daughter Yonah (Vanda Margraf) fall victim to bullying based on race (by an angry blonde cheerleading rival called Becky, of course), Lee getting into a street dust-up with a gang of white guys with something to prove — "Happens all the time," he shrugs — and Wan getting harassed by immigration (once again, Becky), he finds himself rethinking what might be best for his son. Yonah helps there too, as she and Wan butt heads much like Ip and Jing do.

Ip Man 4: The Finale is a much more muted film than Yip and Yen's previous entries. It has less youthful bluster and fewer historical landmarks and is very much about a man facing his own mortality. Some of the best sequences involve Yen internally debating what to tell Jing via long-distance phone call.

Moving the action to the U.S. doesn't really do much for the franchise aside from providing an excuse to include the likes of Chris Collins (not the New York congressman on his way to jail) as Colin, a marine martial arts instructor (he prefers karate), and Scott Adkins, familiar to any self-respecting martial arts/action movie fan, as frothing, bigoted marine drill sergeant Barton Geddes. That's not a bad thing, even if it takes nearly 80 minutes to get to the main event: Yen and Adkins throwing down. It is glorious, but their duel is just one of four or five key fights, choreographed by the Don Corleone of action, Yuen Woo-ping, that are as creative as they are thrilling. The masters of the CBA and Colin's Mid-Autumn Festival Chinatown contest is a highlight; Wu maintains a graceful dignity (and perfect hair) that gives Wan a quiet authority.
Even though the fights are the thing, cinematographer Cheng Siu-keung's images are effectively bathed in a mid-century wash that makes the film look like it came from an ad in Life magazine, and editor Cheung Ka-fai, one of Hong Kong's best, keeps the action clear and on track. This time Yen should be finished: The pic ends with an epilogue that references Ip's 1972 death. There's nothing in The Finale that needed to be said, but it's no less engaging for it.

Production company: Tin Tin Film Production
Distributor: Well Go USA

Cast: Donnie Yen, Wu Yue, Scott Adkins, Van Ness, Kent Cheng, Chan Kwok-kwan, Kanin Ngo, Chris Collins, Vanda Margraf
Director: Wilson Yip
Screenwriters: Edmond Wong, Dana Fukazawa, Chan Tai-lee, Jill Leung
Producers: Donnie Yen, Raymond Wong
Executive producers: Edmond Wong, Anita Wong
Director of photography: Cheng Siu-keung
Production designer: Kenneth Mak Kwok-keung
Costume designer: Lee Pik-kwan
Music: Kenji Kawai
Editor: Cheung Ka-fai
Action director: Yuen Woo-ping
Casting: Venetia Suchdev
Sales: Mandarin Motion Pictures

In Cantonese, English  
Nice to see Woo-ping come back to some street fighting as opposed to wirework (not that I'd ever complain about the wirework). Adkins is a really terrific racist gweilo bad guy even if I think it's weird that there's apparently no military discipline whatsoever in this movie's Marines (his righteous Wing Chun-practicing victim/subordinate never even bothers to call his antagonizing DI "Sir"). The whole thing is revisionist Chinese propaganda of course, which makes it doubly funny to me that it's being offered up in some corners as a corrective to Tarantino's portrayal of Bruce Lee, but that's a whole other conversation. Anyway I could watch Donnie Yen do the ass-kicking sage thing all day long, and this is that.

--matt lynch--
Ip Man is the role Donnie Yen was born to play. Obviously his fighting ability is superb, but Yen's performance is always perfect in other areas, and he's able to convey a lot in silent moments just through his physicality.

Ip Man 4: The Finale is not the best film in the Ip Man series, which has really stretched history in an attempt to create a blockbuster biographical franchise, but it is a suitable finale. Ip Man is older and he is shown as flawed, moving beyond depictions of him as a perfect person. Similarly, Bruce Lee is presented as nuanced in his principles and attitudes, something which recent films have pretty much sought to belittle (*cough* Tarantino *cough*). This is a film about how marital arts changed perceptions of Asians in the 60s and 70s, which Bruce Lee was at the centre of.
It's interesting to view Ip Man 4 as a Chinese film about the Asian-American experience, which is something rarely seen. The film is unsubtle but sharp in its critiques of America's racist and anti-immigrant practices. Because it is a foreign perspective and not one shaped by America's preferred view of history, it makes no concessions to appease those in America who downplay bigotry. Of course, the Ip Man series is always an odd mix, because whilst most of the films are anti-colonalist, there is a strong streak of Chinese nationalism. Yet the nationalism has nuance, with the characters wishing to keep Kung Fu nationalistic and Chinese ultimately shown to be unwise. Acceptance seems to be the wider message.
Ip Man 4: The Finale is an entertaining piece of historical action. The fights are exemplary, if more restrained than some of the previous films (which were kind of getting out of hand), and having a strong and simple storyline certainly helps. There's not a lot of depth, but the messaging is noteworthy and the time easily passes.
Side-note: Knowing this was filmed in the north of England and not America kept me amused for a lot of the runtime.

Review by Darren Carver-Balsiger
Between this and Wolf Warrior everyone in China is gonna fucking hate Scott Adkins lmao. 

The Ip Man movies are just pure China and wing chun propaganda at this point but this is China and wing chun propaganda done entertainingly. Wilson Yip said Ip Man 4 is mainly a continuation of Ip Man 3 and that for better or worse applies to the quality of it as well. It’s less of a "good movie" in the traditional sense like Ip Man and Ip Man 2 but more in the sense that you get to see fucking DONNIE YEN VS SCOTT ADKINS BABY FUCK YEAH. I can’t tell you how great it is to (finally) see Adkins on the big screen and NOT absolutely wasted as an actor. He’s doing some glorious mega acting here as a cartoonishly evil and racist 80s Cannon movie villain named Gunnery Sergeant Barton Geddes that’s easily his most insane role since his Dr. Robotnik from BLACK MASK 2 (also choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping). Not only that Adkins has a very intimidating physical presence in this one that I honestly don’t find in many of his other movies. He looks like fucking Bane standing in front of Donnie Yen and Wu Yue. And as great as his final showdown with Yen is, his fight with Wu Yue is actually the highlight of the film for me and you really do feel the devastation that Adkins is able to unleash upon his opponent. Say what you will about Wilson Yip (and I’ve certainly said plenty) but when it comes to pure action the man is simply one of the most reliable craftsmen in the business, no doubt. His action here is visceral in a way that it hasn’t been since FLASH POINT and the final fight between Adkins and Yen, while short, delivers the emotional payoff you’d come to expect from a Ip Man movie. Meaning they both got their shit kicked in in equal measures, absolutely WALLOPED on.
I honestly only went to see this because Scott Adkins as the final boss for this long running anime arc is not something that I was gonna miss in theaters, and this delivered on that front, thus my rating. But everything else in between is really just kind of not good. Bruce Lee shows up for one (albeit pretty good) scene and disappears into eternity. The father son relationship between Ip Man and, well, his son, is underexplored and about as thin as the piece of paper that they haphazardly wrote it on. But nothing compares to that bizarre subplot about some kind of cheerleader rivalry that goes nowhere and really leaves you wondering what the purpose of that display of athleticism was. Or was Wilson Yip just that big of a fan of Bring It On. I ain’t judging but either way that should’ve been trimmed out, felt it existed solely because the screenplay demanded a good looking young actress inserted in so the studio wouldn’t miss out on that part of the demographic. 
But I’m saving the best for last here because my god, I don’t think I’ve ever seen portrayal of racism in a non-parody movie as ridiculously over the top and hilarious as the played-completely-straight and dead-serious racist shit that they made poor Scott Adkins and Chris Collins say in this. My personal favorite piece of lore is that the entire motive of the racist villains is to preserve the purity and supremacy of karate – a Japanese martial art. Wtf I thought they were racists.

Review by Tao A

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