Man was such a powerful kung fu master, he could actually warp time. Fans can only assume as much if they wish to rationalize
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 grandmasters. Herman Yau dramatizes his twilight years in Ip Man—the Final Flight, featuring a different
Ip, yet one still more or less compatible Wong Kar-wai’s Grandmaster (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
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 the rampant gangsterism within
the Walled City. However, when it
finally gets down to fighting, Final delivers
some spectacular street melees.
produced independently of Wong Kar Wai’s long awaited martial arts spectacle
and Wilson Yip’s Ip Man franchise,
Anthony Wong is not a bad likeness for both Donnie Yen and “Little” Tony Leung
Chiu Wai in their 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 graybeards.
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.
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
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 opens this Friday (9/20) in New York at the Cinema
Labels: Anthony Wong, Hong Kong Cinema, Ip Man, Martial arts cinema