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  Ip Man 4: The Finale The Oldest Fist Swinger In Town
Year: 2019
Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan, Vanness Wu, Jim Liu, Kent Cheung, Wu Yue, Ngo Ka-nin, Adrian Wheeler, Chris Collins, Vanda Margraf, Nicola Stuart-Hill, Nico Amedeo, Grace Englert, John F. Cruz, Simon Shiyamba, Ye He
Genre: Thriller, Martial Arts, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is one of the most accomplished martial artists in the whole of the Eastern world, but now he is getting older, he has found a foe to battle who cannot be defeated with his punching and kicking prowess: cancer. The prognosis is not good, and though he can help his health by giving up smoking, the disease appears to be terminal, so when he received word from his teenage son's school that the boy is to be expelled for fighting, and he should be sent abroad to study where they could cope with him better, he decides he has to set this up in San Francisco before he expires. Why San Francisco? Because a certain Bruce Lee (Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan) is there...

Although things would seem to have been wrapped up quite nicely with Ip Man 3, the franchise had been such a huge success in East Asia that a fourth instalment was demanded, and while there was not much left to draw on from the real life man this was inspired by, regular director Wilson Yip saw to it that the martial arts action audiences expected was there, and he even added a dash of Brucesploitation as well. There was nothing as absurd as seeing the hero fight Mike Tyson in this one, however, in fact the most ridiculous twist was that end titles card telling us Ip Man was seventy-nine years old when he died, and presumably that age when getting into fights here (!).

The big bad here was a Westerner who had become a huge star across Asia, Scott Adkins, though he was not introduced until the movie was halfway over. He played R. Lee Ermey from Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, and if you ever thought that film truly lacked Ermey bustin' out the karate moves then you would be in hog heaven here, though there was a (serious face) important message Ip Man 4 wished to impart. That was - brace yourself - racism is bad! Although you would like to believe anyone deciding to watch a Donnie Yen movie would be well aware of that already, the script tended to hit you over the head, possibly in kung fu style, with that information to excessive degrees.

The blame for racism was put squarely at the door of white America, which made a change from a Chinese film taking down the British (possibly because a lot of this was clearly shot in the United Kingdom), and epitomised by Adkins (with American accent) who laces his dialogue with anti-Chinese rhetoric, which was odd in itself since he placed so much store by karate. But of course, karate is Japanese, and the Chinese authorities were historically not too keen on them either, therefore this was a nightmare scenario where the Americans and Japanese ganged up on China, at least in one small area across the Pacific anyway. By this stage in Chinese moviemaking, you had to expect the propaganda machine was going to be implemented for anything the Government expected to be a blockbuster.

And so it was, Ip Man 4 was an enormous hit in China, Donnie Yen being one of their biggest homegrown stars and the mouthwatering prospect of him handing Scott Adkins' ass to him, nearly eighty or not, was too much to resist. In that respect, this was good fun, and though Donnie was not as young as he used to be therefore a more generous (choppier) editing technique was used to make the years fall off him - he was in his fifties when he made this, but still looked sprightly, if his usual stoic Ip Man self. To lay it all on even thicker, Ip has to help out the daughter of the head of the Chinese Benevolent Association (Vanda Margraf) who just wants to be a cheerleader but the bigoted white kids at school insist on bullying her, though watching the expert combatant rapping the knuckles of a bunch of juvenile delinquents was not quite what you watched these movies for. It was respectful towards its protagonist, but you did note Donnie was not involved in every action sequence. Probably the least of the series, it had its compensations. Music by Kenji Kawai.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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