Story: After being away for a long time Wing Chun master Ip Man (Anthony Wong) returns to Hong Kong in order to settle down. His wife and his
son are still in Foshan and are supposed to follow later, but eventually China closes its borders and Ip Man stays in the British crown colony on his own.
However, soon a few students approach the master even though he has no interest in opening an official school. The students experience Ip Man's
wisdom and modesty first-hand, but the master also learns a lot about the political and social problems in his homw town. His female disciple Lee King
(Jiang Luxia) works under inappropriate conditions and labor leader Leung Sheung (Timmy Hung) can change little about that. Ip's student Wong Tung (Marvel Chow)
on the other hand is a hothead who wants to put his newly learned skills to the test and policeman Tang Sing (Jordan Chan) has to find his way in a corrupt
police force while not losing sight of his own path in life. Ip can't help his students with all their problems, but wherever possible he helps with words
and deeds, even if this means for the peaceloving martial artist to face a merciless gangster boss (Xiong Xin-Xin).
Review: You have to be kidding me... Without seriously checking this should be at least the fifth movie adaptation of Ip Man's life -
not counting any TV shows. And then there is also Anthony Wong portraying the martial arts master - a gifted actor, but no master of martial arts. Therefore,
everything somehow seems to amount to a big failure, even though the film is by Herman Yau, maybe one of Hong Kong's most underrated directors today. But
here it is, a big surprise in the end. Because apart from a few critics most of them apparently missed completely that "Ip Man - The Final Fight",
despite a misleading/badly chosen title, is standing as the best Ip Man biopic so far, yes, this also and especially includes Wong Kar-Wai's a little
bit too self-absorbed "The Grandmaster".
Attention, I said the best Ip Man biopic, because solely in regards to the fights there is still "Ip Man" or depending on your taste
"The Legend is Born - Ip Man" sitting on the throne, latter one also being by Herman Yau! But the life and
achievements by Ip Man haven't been brought to the big screen nearly as convincing and genuine as has been done here. For this success there are several reasons
to be named, but one of them is Anthony Wong in the main lead. There is nothing heroic about him and he certainly doesn't look the way you would imagine a
master - but most masters look completely ordinary, which makes Wong the perfect cast - well, not that he would look like your ordinary Chinese guy, but you
get the idea. Additionally, Wong manages like none of his colleagues in the other screen adaptions to depict the modesty and tolerance of the master and
how this actually never made his life any easier.
One part of the movie is representative for Ip Man's path in life. When he meets his former disciple, none other than Bruce Lee, and he is indirectly offered
fame, Ip kindly declines. Ip isn't at odds with his student, he accepts that Bruce Lee can sell himself well and makes a business out of martial arts, he is
also open to Bruce developing his Wing Chun further, but this short scene shows us what kind of a person Ip Man was. By no means he is idealized, though.
That Ip Man more or less gives up his wife, has a questionable relationship with a considerably younger woman shorty after his wife's death, all of this
makes him look very human and adds flaws to his character if you want to call them that. It's also laudbale that we get to know the master mainly through
his interactions with his surroundings. The movie outlines almost twenty years.
What's really astonishing is how much material has been put into merely hundred minutes. In a breakneck pacing we sprint through two decades and along that ride we get to see many subplots revolving around Ip's students, which are all interesting in their own respect. Yet, Wong always ties the movie to his character and stands as the stabilizing element being responsible for "The Final Fight" to flow very naturally. Not getting entangled in an otherwise overloaden screenplay does also demand some skills of director Herman Yau, who manages to create a certain attitude to life, including politics, social issues, fashion and music, especially thanks to a wonderful set of a city taken right out of the 50s/60s. The biggest feat, however, which prevents the film from tasting like a somewhat randomly mixed hot pot, is that all the threads come together in Ip Man. Not all of them may be completely resolved at the end but that just makes this bio-pic feel the more natural.
You will find yourself pleasantly surprised by Wong's martial art, too, because with his 52 years the non-martial artist cuts a truely fine figure, even better than Tony Leung with his attempt of portraying Ip. Granted, there are some scenes in which everything seems to be shot at a faster speed, but most fights lool very natural and realistic and also bring the personality of Wing Chun to bear very well. The fights are distributed over the film well and should excite martial arts fans, too, yet they are always very modestly taking a backseat to the story, maybe apart from the showdown which obviously came to be solely because of the basic necessity of a climax. We aren't just given an understanding of Wing Chun by the best portrayal of Ip Man and his life so far but also by some philosophical lines that the audience gets for future use. If "Ip Man - The Final Fight" should remain the last movie of the Ip Man-wave it would certainly be a worthy conclusion!