Since the first Ip Man film in 2008, starring Donnie Yen, the story of Bruce Lee’s tutor has captivated Hong Kong film-makers.
While that first film – and its sequels – used Ip as a vehicle for kick-ass action, many fans understandably wanted to know more about the man behind the myth. Herman Yau’s The Legend Is Born attempted to do just that in a film that cleverly complemented Donnie Yen’s more action-orientated series.
Yau’s sequel, The Final Fight, follows Ip’s later life, from the age 56 to his death at 79.
Arriving in Hong Kong in 1949, Ip Man (Anthony Wong) and his family, are looking to make a fresh start. They are quickly adopted by a group of passionate students who are desperate to learn the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun. Against this background, is a Hong Kong awash with political unrest, organised crime, and backbreaking poverty.
While the Donny Yen films were plot-light at times, The Final Fight often feels like there are too many storylines trying to squeeze into 100 minutes of film. But, while the pacing and story-telling occasionally falter, Anthony Wong’s performance never does. It’s Wong who holds the whole together with a truly magnetic and career-defining performance.
As in The Legend Is Born, Director Herman Yau delights in period nostalgia. With lighting and colorful studio sets, alongside some stand-out fight sequences, The Final Fight feels like a ‘60s Hong Kong classic that you’ve somehow never seen before.
A lifelong martial arts practitioner, Wong spent over a year preparing to play the role of Ip Man and the results are impressive. However, The Final Fight isn’t an action movie in the traditional sense. There are some memorable sequences, but Fight focuses more on the morality and philosophy of kung fu than its practice. All of this makes for a thought-provoking viewing experience.
Ip Man: The Final Fight, is by no means perfect but does give fans exactly what they have been asking for: a fully-fleshed Ip Man, and film that both stands on its own and complements the wider Ip Man franchise.