Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Ip Man 4: The Finale

Release date: December 20, 2019
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Kwok-Kwan Chan

As its name implies, Ip Man 4: The Finale concludes the saga of Ip Man, the Wing Chun martial arts master and teacher of Bruce Lee.  In it, Master Ip Man (Yen) travels to America in order to find a foreign school for his son.  But he encounters an entrenched Chinese population in San Francisco dealing with the problems and prejudices of being an immigrant population in America in the 60s.  On top of this, Master Ip Man has his own problems to deal with while he hunts for a new life for his son.   

First and foremost, this movie should have good martial arts.  And thankfully, this is definitely a strong suit of the film.  Donnie Yen is up to the challenge and this movie has some pretty fantastic fight choreography with a variety of styles.  Yen is joined by some very talented martial artists to create some beautiful and brutal fight sequences.  However, what is also apparent from this film is that it is a love letter to classic martial arts movies.  From the yellow tint to the film, to the exaggerated dialog where even the English lines sometimes sound like bad English dubs, to the way that most problems can be resolved by one epic fight, this film invokes everything you loved about classic martial arts movies.

And don't get me wrong, I loved this movie and I especially love Donnie Yen's quiet, confident master.  However, there is a lot of overt racism in this film against Chinese and against white Americans.  I don't know how bad it was in the 1960s, so maybe this is all an accurate representation, but a lot of it seemed exaggerated for dramatic effect.  It definitely feels like a film where American culture is depicted in an overly exaggerated stereotypical fashion.  And, the underlying message of the film, that many disputes can be solved by a simple fight, seems like an outdated idea.  Again, I want to caveat that I loved this film and if this is a throwback to old martial arts films, it is a well done one.  However, if this is meant to teach lessons, then this might not be the best exemplar for life. 

Ip Man 4 finishes the epic story of Master Ip Man, with a wonderful love letter to classic martial arts film, with the exaggerated scenarios and amazing fights that you would expect from the Wing Chun master.

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