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

Ip Man 4: The Finale2019.

Directed by Wilson Yip.
With Donnie Yen, Kwok-Kwan Chan, Yue Wu, Scott Adkins, Vanness Wu and Jim Liu.


The latest chapter in the Ip Man saga sees the titular hero struggle not only with the challenges of the arena, but also that of his personal life.


To call Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen a “legend” is an understatement. With a career that spans nearly four decades, this action megastar has become one of the most recognizable faces in the film industry, transitioning seamlessly from his hometown of Hong Kong into mainstream Hollywood. with movies like Blade II, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: The Return of Alex Cage. But that was when Yen took on the defining role of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the 2008 film. Ip-Man, that it has truly become his. Since the release of this film, Yen has been credited by many for popularizing the Wing Chung style of martial arts in China and it is entirely possible that his work with the Ip-Man the films will be his most enduring legacy for fans.

The premise of IP Man 4 sees our titular hero leave his home territory of Hong Kong to travel to America at the invitation of his former student Bruce Lee (Kwon-Kwan Chan), who began teaching martial arts to Westerners. Unsurprisingly, this move, coupled with the arrogant arrogance of Bruce Lee, did not sit well with San Francisco’s Kung Fu masters, and as a result, trouble ensued. To better understand the westernophobic position taken by these martial arts masters, a brief historical review is in order. With the conclusion of the California Gold Rush and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1800s, there was a sudden shortage of jobs due to the weak US economy. And at that time, this large Chinese workforce was seen as a threat to the job security of the local population. Repelled by extreme discrimination, these Chinese immigrants huddled in safe sanctuaries, which then spread to later Chinatowns. To add insult to injury, the law further prohibited them from testifying in court, owning property, voting, marrying non-Chinese, and working in institutional agencies. A century later, things have improved for the better, but the general mistrust between the two ethnicities remains. And it was because of this that the local martial arts community strongly disagreed with what Bruce Lee was doing. But Ip Man trusted his precious student instincts and saw “sharing martial arts teachings with Westerners” as an opportunity to bridge the gap between two very different cultures.


Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite capitalize on this all-important message. And therein lies its biggest problem. Almost all of the non-Asian characters here are two-dimensional caricatures at best, and their bad acting made it worse. The film’s main antagonist, Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins), is a racist Marine Corps sergeant with no history and unknown motives. We know almost nothing about this character except the fact that he is a brutal fighter with a serious erection for the Chinese. That’s it. The cheesy dialogue gushing out of the foreign actors’ wooden performances in the film could be due to the director’s lack of experience dealing with Western performers or simply because they’re bad actors. But the same cannot be said for Donnie Yen, Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan or Wu Yue.

With IP Man 4 Donnie Yen offers a more subdued and nuanced performance that is touching and heartfelt. He is a man who has weathered many storms, but now faces challenges of a more personal nature. His son Ip Ching (Jim Liu) often fights at school, disregarding his father’s advice, and to make matters worse, Ip Man is diagnosed with throat cancer. Donnie Yen internalizes all of these complex emotions and captures the toll they take on Ip in a painfully realistic way. Much like Bing Crosby’s true benefactor Father O’ Malley, Ip too is a cut above the rest, almost on an otherworldly level. Yen said this would be his last foray into Kung Fu actors, but hopefully he’ll have a swing, should the need arise.


Another star worth mentioning is Danny Chan as Bruce Lee. Chan effortlessly captures the legendary skills and bravado of martial artists here and it would truly be a dream come true if Chan and the producers of Ip-Man teamed up for a Bruce Lee movie in the near future. Wu Yue also delivers a memorable performance as Ip’s former opponent became his ally Wan Zong-hua, president of the Chinese Benevolent Association. But IP Man 4 would obviously be incomplete without the heart-pounding action sequences choreographed by the inimitable Yuen Woo Ping (The matrix), and we certainly get our fair share of it…and more. Composer Kenji Kawai (ghost in the shell) once again conjures up an epic score that suits the film’s scope and ambition, capturing the film’s quiet introspective moments as well as the explosive action sections, with equal skill.

the Ip-Man saga has truly immortalized the legendary martial artist with its films, there is no doubt. For more than a decade, the franchise has captivated audiences with its compelling characters, gripping story, and thrilling action segments. Ip Man 4: The Finale has its flaws, but it brings a satisfying conclusion to this epic saga.

Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie ★★★ / Movie ★★★★

Hasitha Fernando is a part-time doctor and a full-time movie buff. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.

Kimberly B. Nguyen