IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT – The Blu Review
Review by Sam Moffitt
Chinese movies just keep getting better. In my review of The Four I wrote about the depth the Chinese now bring to martial arts films. Old school kung fu movies were much like pornography, the story, such as it was, just pushed us from one fight scene to another. Character, story, feeling, theme all took a back seat to the fight scenes.
No more, I never dreamed I would ever see a martial arts film like Ip Man Final Fight. Based on a true story written by one of Ip Man’s sons, who appears in a cameo, and narrated by his character, we are told the story of the master of kung fu who brought the wing chun style of fighting to Hong Kong in the 50s and 60s and touched the lives of many people, and kicked the piss out of a lot of them when he wasn’t busy eating or teaching wing chun style fighting.
Ip Man, almost always referred to as Sei Fu or master, (sensei in Japanese) comes to Hong Kong in 1950, starts his fight school on a roof top, brings his wife to Hong Kong, is separated from her due to English immigration laws and later when she dies, he has a nervous breakdown. Later he finds a much younger girl friend, a club singer who falls for him when he stands up to a bully giving her a hard time.
He also counsels union workers going on strike, and a Hong Kong police officer on the take. In fact Ip Man Final Fight is as much about Sei Fu’s philosophy and way of living as it is about the fight scenes. But the fights, as always, are incredible. Eric Tsang plays a rival Sei Fu who has to find out how good Ip Man really is. In the disc supplements we learn that the always incredible Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang took 2 days to film a fight scene lasting about 10 minutes, and kicked the shit out of each other in the process. Also in the supplements we learn that Anthony Wong trained in wing chun for one year before the movie started shooting, and I believe it, there were no stunt doubles for any of the actors, including a number of women who look like they really can take care of themselves.
But what Ip Man presents is so much more than fight scenes, a lot more. Sei Fu exhibits all the virtues the Chinese hold dear and none of their faults. He is brave, generous, ethical, polite to everyone, even his opponents and sworn enemies. He is protective of women and children and dotes on his family and is outraged at the injustice visited on the Hong Kong Chinese population by their British occupiers. There are even some English language scenes.
Ip Man goes through more than his share of tragedy, the death of his wife and his break down are heartbreaking, I defy anyone to watch this film and not weep. Yet he never complains, he never made much money but he had dozens of loyal friends and pupils and loves his family fiercely. His girlfriend, who is drop dead beautiful and so much younger than him, is never accepted by his family, yet he refuses to criticize them or leave her just because of their disapproval.
A former student opens his own school across the street from his dojo, yet he says not one word of disapproval. The same student becomes a winner in martial arts fights in Kowloon, the walled city where, we are told, the Hong Kong police have no jurisdiction. He is managed by the cop on the take who finally comes to his senses and does the right thing during the climactic Final Fight. The young fighter has been doped before the fight when he refuses to take a dive and lose. His pregnant wife actually joins in the fighting, which involves Sei Fu and all of his pupils and friends against a small army of gangsters and hoodlums, and it is one hell of fight, taking place while Hong Kong is lashed by a typhoon. Thunder, lightening and driving rain always ups the drama quotient.
Near the end we see the son who wrote this story film Ip Man doing his training with a wooden dummy, during the credits we see the film of the real Sei Fu, Ip Man going through his moves in black and white. We also learn that one of his pupils was none other than Bruce Lee! And that he wholeheartedly approved of kung fu films. He felt that wing chun style fighting belonged to the world and that every one should learn to defend themselves, but only from a place of honesty and integrity. A true master or pupil of kung fu fights only as a last resort.
Well Go USA’s BluRay disc is flawless, Ip Man is beautifully filmed and the disc captures all of the color and exotic flavor of old Hong Kong. Which brings me to a special mention for the set design and props. We learn in the supplements that old Hong Kong was built from scratch, these are not sets but real buildings, furnished with antiques, old newspapers and magazines. Clothes, hair styles, soda and beer bottles, dishes, radios all authentic. A real street car rolls down real streets laid just for this movie, a real steam engine pulls the train out of the Hong Kong railroad station recreated to the last detail.
Anthony Wong makes special mention of the set design. I only noticed one scene using CGI and it is very brief, otherwise we are seeing real buildings and props.
The supplements include several short making of films and interviews with the director and several actors. Four audio options include 2 in Cantonese and 2 in English. A set of trailers for other Well Go USA discs completes the package. Also Ip Man Final Fight is part of a series, there are several other Ip Man films, apparently not all of them directed by Herman Yau or starring Anthony Wong.
I never expected to be so moved by a martial arts film. This movie is a masterpiece. Ip Man Final Fight has just got it all, tragedy, humor, honesty, loyalty, integrity, all wrapped up in the person of a humble Chinese man who only wanted to teach people to defend themselves. Of course he also opened up several cans of whoop ass in the bargain, and set down to some great looking food. Be ready to get some Chinese takeout for this movie I’m not kidding.
In fact I’m going out for dim sum, care to join me?
IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT will be released on DVD and Blu-ray November 12th