Ip Man: The Final Fight Explores the Limits of Kung Fu Once the Fighting is Done
"If a man can't even make ends meet, what good is kung fu to him?" Ip Man, legendary trainer of Bruce Lee, ponders this question after a distressing reunion with some old friends in Herman Yau's Ip Man: The Final Fight, a film that's less a kung-fu movie and more a meditation on kung fu's limitations. Not that there aren't fights: There's an impressively staged "lion dance" on a ring of wooden pilings, and the "final fight" in the lawless walled city of Kowloon sets the blood racing. Not quite a biopic, the film presents an overview of Ip's years in Hong Kong; Anthony Wong's dignified performance begins with the grandmaster almost fully formed. Largely episodic, the narrative discards characters and concepts (Ip's destitute friends, a restaurant workers' strike) with little explanation but the passage of time. The two main throughlines are likewise a mixed bag. When one of Ip's students, a cop (Jordan Chan), becomes corrupted, the story reaches a predictable if satisfying end. Meanwhile, Ip himself feels a growing affection for a pretty local singer (Zhou Chuchu), despite his wife back home and the disapproval of his students. In the face of that, what can kung fu do?
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.