Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)
Review by Jude Felton
Let’s just preface this review by stating that I doubt very much that The Final Fight will actually be the final fight. The Ip Man franchise, through the good and bad, has been quite successful and more often than not delivered some fine films. Due to this I fully expect to see another Ip Man in the not so distant future, as let’s face it no one mines a franchise more so than in Asian cinema; just look at the Ringu series of films.
Anyway, onto The Final Fight and the first thing that struck me, and no doubt many others, is the fact that Donnie Yen is absent for this installment. In the title role, this time out, we have Anthony Wong, which admittedly made me a little hesitant. This was due mainly to the fact that Donnie Yen is just so damned entertaining to watch.
This switch in lead though makes perfect sense, as it follows the twilight years of Ip Man’s life, and as such Wong adds a real sense of grace to the performance. Don’t worry; you’ll still get some great fight scenes, although they are more infrequent this time around.
Ip Man: The Final Fight is really more of a drama than an actual fight film, despite its title. Yes, you will get a final fight, and it is pretty damned good, but the focus here is more on the man himself, and his personal challenges.
The main storyline follows Ip Man as he travels to Hong Kong, after World War 2, and inevitably starts up another school to teach his martial arts ways. Throw in some conflict with the local Triads, and their boss, and you have a plot that’s not a million miles away from Ip Man 2. There’s also family drama thrown in, as well as Ip Man’s distaste for his most famous pupil’s attitude, so we do get a little Bruce Lee, but not too much.
As I mentioned, this is actually more drama than fight, and it actually works quite well. Wong is not a fight star, although the fight scenes were good, but he adds that mature reserve to the role, which, no disrespect to Donnie Yen, he is far more equipped to play. Wong is an actor, and it shows through in his performance.
There will be those that hate the film, for this very reason, as why would they cast non-fight stars in a fight movie? Well, because it isn’t a fight film and just get over it. Part of the magic about films is making the unbelievable come to life, and quite frankly I don’t want to see a fighter in a film who can’t act. Yes, Donnie Yen can act, and is one of my favorite Asian stars, but I don’t think he would have been equipped enough to really get into the depth of this film’s story.
That being said, Ip Man: The Final Fight isn’t up to the standard of the previous two Yen films, and it follows the plot too closely, which almost makes it seem as though it is a remake of Ip Man 2. It’s still an entertaining movie, that is for sure, but I would like to see the franchise come to a close now, even though I doubt it will.
There are better fight films out there, and better historical dramas, but as a blend of the two this is a quite decent film. I’d watch it again, purely for Wong’s performance; although I fear fight film purists won’t give it a chance.
As you might expect from a Well Go Blu-ray release, the picture and sound is damned good. Possibly too good, as it does emphasize some of the budgetary shortcomings; especially as the camera pans down through Hong Kong. Still, it’s another worthy addition to anyone’s Well Go collection, and for the most part an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Ip Man: The Final Fight is released by Well Go USA on November 12th.