Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Ip Man (1893 - 1972) was a Chinese martial arts master who famously trained Bruce Lee in the Wing Chun school of kung fu. There's been a spate of Ip Man movies over the last few years, and I just saw the latest one, Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013). Now I'm not the biggest kung fu flick fan, but I have to say I genuinely enjoyed this one. It features the creative efforts of director Herman Yau and star Anthony Wong who, together, gave us such classic 90s Category III films as Ebola Syndrome and Eight Immortals Restaurant: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns (aka The Untold Story). Mr. Yau sure has come a long way since then; this is a high profile, mainstream affair with great production values and a transporting period setting (post-war Hong Kong).

Anthony Wong has been my favorite HK film star since forever (see Asia Shock for details), so seeing him as Ip Man in his later years (Wong is getting up there himself) really made the film for me. Wong has such gravitas, and it feeds perfectly into the role of a noble, charismatic kung fu master living out the last years of his life in 1950s/60s Hong Kong, teaching a group of students (who become his de facto gang) and kicking ass in spontaneous street brawls and within the notorious Walled City of Kowloon.

Keep an eye out for the girl selling barbecue pork buns -- that's an inside joke. And appreciate the use of digital effects to enhance the story. This is a particularly sophisticated take on the martial arts genre, with warmth and insight seldom seen in such pictures. (Geez, was that condescending enough?)