Ip Man 4 may be one of the best entries in the series filled with genuine emotion, hateful villains and impressive fight scenes. It’s a satisfying end to a modern classic franchise that will be sure to please fans.
Plot: Donnie Yen reprises his role as the legendary Wing Chun master in the grand finale of the revolutionary martial arts series. Following the death of his wife, Ip Man travels to San Francisco to ease tensions between the local kung fu masters and his star student, Bruce Lee, while searching for a better future for his son. From the action visionary behind Kill Bill and The Matrix, witness the heroic sendoff to the saga that inspired a new wave of martial arts movie fans.
Review: As Scott Adkins mentioned in our interview a few weeks back, like Wong Fei Hung the Ip Man movies have become more of a fable and not really based on true events anymore.
They are more “inspired by” and this fourth and final movie is no different with Master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) going to San Francisco searching for a new school for his son. While there he encounters racism from the white Americans who see the Chinese as lower-class citizens and he finds himself fighting against enemies on all sides but also making some new friends. The local CBA don’t greet Master Ip particularly warmly and we find out that they are upset that his protégé Bruce Lee has been teaching kung fu to non-Chinese.
When the US Marines find out that there is interest in bringing in kung fu to the military rather than karate one Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins) wants to demonstrate who the real masters are.
I have to hand it to Scott Adkins who plays the most despicable villain of his career; with Boyka you always empathized with him because he at least had a code of honour but Geddes is just a racist monster and it must have been hard for Scott to say some of the dialogue.
This is arguably one of the most emotionally charged movies in the series and at no point will you sympathize with Geddes so you’ll find yourself cheering during the climactic and satisfying final battle.
I know I always whine about the overuse of wirework in this series but thankfully it is kept to the minimum (although there is some) so it has some of the best fights of the franchise. Donnie only has a few fights and as Master Ip is older now he is more on the sidelines but can’t stand idly by when he sees injustice. He always tries to resolve any dispute calmly and with words, only fighting when truly necessary which makes him even more of an inspiration and hero. Donnie Yen never disappoints and this will always be his most iconic role as he brings such charisma and empathy to the character.
Bruce Lee finally gets a bigger role but it’s still a shame we never got a movie where Ip Man actually trains him as I feel like that’s one of the most important chapters of his life. Kwok-Kwan Chan is a ringer for Bruce and captures his mannerisms to a tee and I would love to see him in a new biographical movie of his life.
Along the way Master Ip meets other Chinese immigrants like marine Hartman (Vanness Wu) who is sick of being treated like a second class citizen by Geddes; then we have Master Wan Zong Hua who is head of the CBA. His daughter gets bullied for being Chinese and Ip Man comes to her rescue creating a bond between them.
Chris Collins plays an arrogant marine fighter called Colin Frater who challenges the kung fu masters and is a force to be reckoned with although he has arguably the best line of dialogue of 2019 – “Come fight me with your hanky panky kung fu”… ok then. So there is the odd issue with dialogue and some wooden performances from the non-Asian actors but this is still a massively entertaining entry to the series.
The music score is as sublime as always with the Ip Man theme used sparingly but when it kicks in it’s to uproarious effect.
I really wasn’t expecting to get emotional watching this movie but the third entry did it as well with the passing of Ip Man’s wife so it’s one of those rare martial arts franchises that never loses its heart so we genuinely care for the characters. Throughout The Finale you will be filled with rage at the racism the Chinese have to endure, you’ll cheer during the final fight and maybe even shed a tear by the end… I know I did.
Overall, Ip Man 4: The Finale is a fitting end to a classic franchise with memorable characters, impressive fight scenes and one of the most hateful villains of the year from Scott Adkins.