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Ip Man 4: The Finale — movie review
Today’s review is for the 2019, third sequel and fourth episode of the Ip Man series starring Donnie Yen in the title role.  Ip Man is the semi-legendary sifu (teacher) of Wing Chun kung fu to the martial-artist / movie-TV personality Bruce Lee.  The first three editions showed Ip Man leading up to and through World War II and the invasion of China by Japan.  This “final” episode revolves around Ip Man being diagnosed with Cancer and taking a trip to San Francisco to try to find a school for his teen-age son.
While in San Francisco, Ip Man must deal with Chinese who are prejudiced against white Americans, Immigration and Naturalization Officials who are prejudiced against Chinese and a racist Marine Gunnery Sergeant who is a “master” of Karate.  His black belt level is unstated.
Basically, the story is a father learning to have faith in his son’s choices and learning to be able to express his love to his son.  Of course, being a martial arts movie, most of the plot is to get us from one fight set piece to the next — and there are quite a few set pieces.
As mentioned above, Donnie Yen reprises his lead role from the three earlier films.  Scott Adkins is the racist Marine Sergeant Barton Geddess.  Vanness Wu is the “good-guy Chinese” Staff Sergeant Hartman Wu trying to incorporate Chinese boxing (Kung Fu) into the Marine physical training.  Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan plays Bruce Lee.  Yue Wu plays Wan Zong Hua, the head of the Chinese Benevolent Society and Vanda Margraf plays Wan Yonah (Wan’s daughter).  Yonah experiences a racist attack at school and Ip Man comes to her rescue.  She “teaches” Ip Man how to “correctly” view his own son’s actions / attitudes.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  How about the martial arts / action sequences?  Yes, mostly.  Yes, mostly.  And, pretty good to very good.  I’m not sure why, but a great deal of this movie deals with racism.  Obviously, this is not an “American” issue which has gone away in the fifty-plus years since this period piece movie was placed (1964), but it was not clear to me why this was actually done – except possibly as a reaction to real-time events (2017 to present) of trying to present a heroic Chinese figure versus a racist American bully.  (Gee, I wonder who that might represent? Trump and MAGA, perhaps?)  Anyway, it makes the movie come across as alternatively very emotional and then very flat.  Being perfectly honest, it is really Donnie Yen’s screen presence which has carried the series and he again does the job in this edition.  Is the movie entertaining?  Honestly, (again) only if you like watching martial arts choreography.  The movie does (mostly) get you from fight “A” to fight “B” to fight “Z” and that’s pretty much the bar setting on this type of movie (for me).  Every once in a while you’ll get a “martial arts” movie which is a “Hero” or a “Crouching Tiger”, but they are exceptions rather than the rule.  That is why we remember them.  This is no different from our “Rocky” or “Rambo” or “Terminator” series’.  You’re not going to them to see Oscar worthy performances.
Now, the choreography, though, that’s a different thing altogether.  I would say this sequel is the best since the original.  If you are a “wire” fan, this will not be a “great” movie for you.  I am not a “wire” fan.  I like to see the close-in, hand-to-hand (with some kicks and throws) fighting.  Here, the movie excels because it moves away from the Ip Man fights / defeats 10 or 30 opponents and sticks with classic one-on-one fights with reasonable close and full-body shots when the action warrants. I thoroughly enjoyed the “dances”.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended!  Come for the action, stay for the action.  And, in between, well, mostly flat story line which tries to move you as smoothly as it can between action.
For any historians: I don’t believe any of the four films have much basis in fact.  I doubt Ip Man fought a Japanese General (I), a heavy-weight Western-style professional boxer (II), a Mike Tyson type Western gangster (III) or, if he even made a trip to America (IV) and ended up fighting someone in the U.S. military.  The point is, Ip Man was a master instructor in his style (Wing Chun) and he taught Bruce Lee.  All the rest is pretty much super-hero stuff for it’s entertainment value.  It’s only a movie, folks.  But, this is an enjoyable addition to the series.
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On This Day In:
2019 Paint-By-Numbers
2018 #45: Still Trying To
Oh, Well…
2017 Two Views Of The Starting Line
2016 Never Had It, Never Will (Donald Trump)
2015 20/20
2014 All Of My Best Ideas Come While Walking…
2013 Learn To Learn
2012 I Remind You
2011 Respect And Prestige
2010 Living Legends (Willie Nelson) and the Gettysburg Address

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