Tag Archives: ip man

Movie Review – Ip Man 4: The Finale (2019)

It’s Master Ip’s last ride, 3.5 readers. Come along, will you?

Sooner or later, every series you love jumps the shark and while I don’t think it does here, it comes really close. It puts on the Fonzi jacket, it gets on the motorcycle, it drives up the ramp but luckily, it doesn’t take the leap over the shark’s awaiting mouth, but I fear if somehow, there is ever an Ip Man 5, it will.

For the uninitiated, Donnie Yen is one of the greatest action stars to come out of Hong Kong, the Hollywood of Asia, and he plays Master Ip or Ip Man (in English, he’d be Man Ip), the world’s foremost practitioner of the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu, which, in my laymen’s understanding based entirely on watching these movies, means he is able to deliver quick, rapid fire punches on his opponent, delivered so fast its like they’re coming out of the barrel of an Uzi.

A caveat, these movies have been my guilty pleasure for a few years, ever since I discovered them on Netflix. The plots tend to take a back seat to the stunning and stellar martial arts scenes, scenes that I watch again and again on YouTube whenever I feel a need for some inspiration.

However, in the first two films, the plot isn’t lacking. I should mention Ip Man is a real person and a popular folk hero in China, though what is true and what is legend in these movies can sometimes be hard to tell apart.

In the first film, Ip Man lives a quiet life in Foshan, China, doting on his family and practicing Wing Chun.  Foshan is an enclave to which martial artists travel so they can learn, but this comes to an end when the Japanese invade and force the locals into lives of slave labor.

A brutal Japanese general/karate master often has many of the local kung fu practitioners brought to him so he can use them as practice fodder, but meets his match with Ip Man, who as you might expect, kicks ass.

Later, in Ip Man 2, Ip Man moves to Hong Kong with his family to open a Wing Chun school, but first must prove himself to the local kung fu masters, leading to what I think is the best fight scene in the series:

In that movie, Master Ip defends kung fu’s honor by kicking the ass of an arrogant British boxer who claims that his boxing skills are far superior to any Chinese martial artist.

Overall the first two flicks are solid as they are a good blend of history and action, but the third is where the series shows early warning signs of shark jumpage. In the third, Ip is called upon to use his skills to defend a school from gangsters who, through acts of violence, are trying to destroy the neighborhood in the hopes that they will be able to acquire the school’s property to use for their evil enterprise.

Throughout the film, the gang’s boss is referred to as “Frank” and at the end, in a twist, we learn that Frank is played by Mike Tyson, face tattoo and all. If you care about the plot, Mike coming out of left field kind of overturns the apple cart, but I’ll admit, it is hard to argue with the scene, because as fight scenes go, it is pretty freaking awesome:

And there’s the rub. Wherever these films lacked in plot, they more than made up for it with the fight scenes, so much so that its hard not to want those kick ass scenes again and again.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, those fight scenes are a bit lacking in Ip Man 4.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some scenes that are stylish and pretty cool. A young Bruce Lee (Danny Kwok-Kan Chan) does some exception ass kicking, and others kick ass throughout, that’s my beef. Ip Man does only a moderate amount of ass kicking throughout, though as one might expect, he does deliver the final ass kicking in the end.

In this latest and last film, Ip Man is diagnosed with cancer. It suddenly dawns on me that I should retract my dumping on Ip Man 3 because a large chunk of the movie is devoted to his wife dying from cancer, the sadness it caused with the overall theme of how life is precious and each day must be appreciated for we never know when it will be lost.

Back to Ip Man 4. Ip is raising his son alone, but alas, the boy is constantly getting into fights in school, but the fights are usually over nonsense, i.e. stolen comic books. Master Ip wonders if shipping the boy off to America wouldn’t toughen him up a bit, maybe getting out into the world and not coming home every day to sulk in his room while his father pays all the bills and takes care of every problem will toughen the boy up, helping to realize that stolen comic books are nothing to fight over.

Having been diagnosed, Ip feels time is of the essence to put his son on a better path. While in America, he reconnects with his old student Bruce Lee, who has yet to become a movie star, but his fame as an international martial artist is growing.

The local martial arts masters of the Chinese Benevolent Association in San Francisco hate this, and fear that by teaching Western students how to kick ass, the West will one day use Chinese martial arts against China, thus seeing their own asses kicked with a form of ass kicking that they invented.

Ip writes this off as paranoia, arguing that if anything, Bruce is a goodwill ambassador for China, fostering good relations between America and China by giving a window into their culture.

Alas, the masters won’t recommend Ip’s son for a good private school unless he talks Bruce Lee into stop teaching the Yankees how to kick ass, and Ip refuses.

Blah, blah, blah, long story short, a Chinese-American Marine and student of Bruce Lee, which in Wing Chun terms, if Bruce is like Ip’s son/student then this kid is like Bruce’s grandson/grandstudent seeks to introduce Wing Chun to the US Marine Corps.

The plot gets a little goofy here as over the top racist Barton Geddes, a drill sergeant who prefers his Americanized version of karate, vows to never allow kung fu to enter his beloved corps, and from there on, there’s a series of fights over whether kung fu or karate is better.

Overall, the film is silly and I do wish they had left it off at 3, where Ip Man struggles and eventually finds a way to carry on while suffering the loss of his wife, but despite the silliness, there are themes about 1960s era racial injustice (somehow Ip Man needs to get both sides to trust each other) and parenting (the daughter of a kung fu master wants to be a cheerleader despite her father’s wishes and somehow, kids must plot their own course, often in defiance of what their parents think is the right course for them.)

This film has the most English speakers in the series. There are scenes where Chinese speakers speak in Chinese and where English speak English and Ip can pinch hit in both. There are times during fights when English speakers speak in that sort of anime dubbed cadence “Ha ha ha, I will defeat you!” that is a little silly.  The villains are over the top with their racism, to the point where they are one stop away from shouting, “Ha ha ha I am so racist!” which probably did happen more in the 1960s though usually, virulent racists tend to be a little subtler with their racism, gaslighting you into thinking their racist actions aren’t racist rather than coming right out and announcing their racism.

STATUS: Moderately Shelf-worthy, though I think this series has to be done. I’ll rewatch the first three films any time but there wasn’t a fight scene here where I’ll go back to watch it again and again on YouTube and that, to me, is the key to a good Ip Man movie – whether or not you want to watch the fight scenes again. But I’ll hand it to Donnie Yen in that he made one helluva series, popularizing a Chinese hero who he obviously loves very much.  And when you combine the fabulous theme song with the fight scenes and Ip’s overall desire to avoid conflict but willingness to fight when there is no other way, these movies can really stir the emotions. In fact, I’m going to stop dumping on 3, because I did cry at the end of it, and not because of Mike’s face tat.

Sidenote: I know Mike isn’t going to do Shakespeare in the Park anytime soon, but after seeing his fight scene, I wonder why he hasn’t been recruited as a villain in a Fast and Furious movie yet.

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Movie Review – Ip Man Movie Series (2008-Present)

Holy Crap, 3.5 readers.

Once in awhile a nerd blogger gets to discover something that is under the radar and share it with his 3.5 readers so that they too may take part in the joy.

And my new joy is…Ip Man!!!

Put on some loose clothing and start practicing your sweet kung fu moves, because BQB is here with a review of the Ip Man movie series.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER ALERT

I’ve seen this movie on Netflix for years and like many films, I just shrugged my shoulders and went, “Meh.”  Due to my lack of understanding of the Chinese language, I assumed “Ip Man” was some kind of superhero.  I thought the title was “IP man” as if he saves artists from the infringement of their intellectual property or something but no.  I was wrong.

I’ve long been a fan of martial arts movies so I finally got around to giving this one a try and wow.

These films are based on the life of Ip Man (in English his last name is Ip and his first name is Man) the legendary Master of Wing Chun Kung Fu.  Wing Chun, as I’ve learned through the power of Google, is a style that relies on defense and is especially effective in close quarter combat.  Also, it was invented by a woman, so there you go, ladies.

In reality, “Master Ip” is considered one of the great practitioners of Wing Chun, having done a great deal to promote it, including teaching it to his most well-known student, Bruce Lee.

The films are produced out of Hong Kong and have English subtitles, but otherwise they feature the special effects, moves and sound of any Hollywood blockbuster.  I’m no historian but I do assume some “liberties” are taken with the history of Master Ip’s life as he does things that no human could probably do but that’s ok.  Movies do that with historical figures all the time.

Ip Man 1 (2008) begins with a young Master Ip (Donnie Yen) who lives an affluent life in fo Shan, a place that is prosperous, allowing the residents to pursue martial arts in their spare time.

Alas, World War II breaks out and the Japanese attack and take over.  Master Ip and his family and friends are left to live lousy, destitute lives filled with hunger and fear.

People are so hungry that they are willing to take rice in exchange for becoming a Japanese general’s punching bags as he practices karate.  Master Ip gets his chance to avenge fo Shan, but must choose between practicality and letting the general win or honor and beating his ass.

In Ip Man 2 (2010), Master Ip and family move to Hong Kong, where the master opens up a Wing Chun school.  He scraps with local kung fu masters who feel he must prove his worthiness before joining them in opposing a Western British boxer who insults them and kills one of their beloved masters.

Finally, I haven’t seen Ip Man 3 (2015) yet.  Based on the above preview, Ip Man fights Mike Tyson.  I’m a little confused by that.  I assume Mike Tyson plays a historical character or something.  I don’t think Master Ip gets in a time machine to fight Mike in the present.

I’ll have to watch it and get back to you.  Often, kung fu films are high on action and low in plot, but the first two films break that trend.  So I’m hoping an awesome story that involves Mike Tyson is worked in.

Even if it isn’t, I could over look it as honestly, the Ip vs Mike scene does look pretty awesome.

Donnie Yen, the actor/martial artist who plays Master Ip deserves a lot of props.  In true kung fu style, he is stoic and focused, never looking for a fight but ending it once it starts.  He comes across as someone who is reflective and studied, who uses martial arts as a manner of being disciplined, but isn’t one to let atrocity go unchecked.

They’re great films.  The only thing I’d note is apparently a number of studios, seeing this series’ success, have created their own Ip Man films.  I haven’t seen them so they may be fine, but be sure to watch the Donnie Yen films first.

Donnie Yen really needs to come to America and kick some ass in Hollywood.  He’s got the moves and the fight scenes (which are not skimped on and come practically every few minutes) are brilliant, breathtaking and a fun spectacle to watch.  He does this thing where he gets his opponent locked down, then delivers a hail of rapid fire punches, something I’ve never seen in a movie before.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Available on Netflix.  My nerd style is far superior to your geek style.

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