Man was such a powerful kung fu master, he could actually warp time. Fans can only assume as much if they wish to
justify the conflicting timelines of the various Ip Man films released in
recent years. The dates and places might
change, but Ip Man remains the grandmaster of masters. Herman Yau dramatizes his twilight years in Ip Man—the Final Flight (trailer here), which is sure to
be a hot ticket tonight at the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
the 1950’s and 1960’s, Hong Kong’s go-go economy had yet to blast off. Master Ip earns little more than a
subsistence living teaching his Wing Chun style of kung fu to students. Well known throughout the city, Master Ip could
probably do a brisker business were it not for his own self-imposed
restrictions. Kung fu is a way of life
for him—not a commodity to be commercialized.
a way, The Final Flight is a bit
Gumpish, casting Master Ip as an observer of two decades of Hong Kong’s growing
pains, including the rise of trade unionism and rampant gangsterism within the
Walled City. However, when it finally
gets down to fighting, Final delivers
some spectacular street melees.
produced independently of Wilson Yip’s Ip Man films, Anthony Wong is not a bad likeness for Donnie Yen in his AARP
years. Wong might not look particularly
spry, but he is a steely old cat, so it is easy to buy into him as the veteran
martial artist. After all, the genre has
a long history of butt-kicking greybeards.
Wong’s Zen-like gravitas is perfect for the venerable Ip. He also develops some appealingly ambiguous
chemistry with Zhou Chu Chu, playing a scandalous nightclub singer attracted to
his old bad self. However, the film is
overstuffed with Ip’s disciples. You
would think half the city was studying under him. Regardless, Jordan Chan adds
real hardboiled heft to the film as Tang Shing, a not completely corrupt copper
and former student of Ip’s. He creates a
spinoff-worthy character should the filmmakers wish to further complicate the
Ip Man universe.
special guest Yau should satisfy fans with his gritty street action and
humanistic portrayal of the Ip family. In
fact, Ip’s son, Ip Chun served as a technical advisor and appears in a small
supporting role. Final Fight is also bolder than its predecessor films depicting Ip’s
most famous student, Bruce Lee. Although
never named as such, it is hard to miss the implication when Master Ip meets
with a former student turned famous actor, whom the audience only sees from
behind, sporting conspicuous sunglasses.
It was the apostolic connection to Bruce Lee
that launched the Ip Man filmmaking craze to begin with, but the Master has
since taken on a media life of his own. Nicely choreographed with a wistful
vibe that sets it apart from the pack, Yau’s latest Ip Man is a worthy addition to the Ip canon. Recommended for martial arts fans with a
strong appreciation of tradition, Ip Man—the
Final Fight screens tonight (6/30) as part of the 2013 New York Asian Film
Labels: Anthony Wong, Herman Yau, Ip Man, Martial arts cinema, NYAFF '13