Ip Man (1893–1972) was a grandmaster in the martial art of Wing Chun. He has become quite the Chinese folk hero of late, appearing as a character in a number of films and TV programs over the past several years. I first became aware of him when I reviewed 'Ip Man.' 'Ip Man: The Final Fight' is not connected to that film or its sequel, 'Ip Man 2', but is director Herman Yau's second Ip Man film, following 'The Legend Is Born – Ip Man' (2010).
Narrated by his son Ip Chun (Zhang Songwen), which is an interesting choice because the character wasn't around for a good portion of the film, the story begins with Ip Man (Anthony Wong) leaving Foshan and his family for Hong Kong in 1949 after the Communists took over China. There's a great establishing shot of the city as the camera moves quickly through a computer model and seamlessly transitions into the real location.
Once there, he begins to train people in Wing Chun, but is reluctant to draw much attention to what he is doing, so rather than open a school in a building, he works with his pupils on a hotel rooftop. Erica Li's screenplay mimics the character, as much of the plot doesn’t draw a lot of attention to Ip Man. While the main focus, he is more of a passive character than active one, as other characters frequently dictate events.
For example, the titular "Final Fight" is one he is drawn into. Ip Man's student Wong Tung (Zhou Dingyu) has left his low-paying job to use his Wing Chun skills to participate in illegal fights within the Walled City, which is run by crime boss Local Dragon (Hung Yan-yan). Wong makes good money for himself and Local Dragon, but things come to a head when Wong refuses to throw a fight. Local Dragon forces the situation, resulting in Ip Man getting involved. Although possibly historically accurate, it diminishes the character's heroism that so much crime and evil went on unchecked.
Unfortunately in dealing with so many characters, the screenplay doesn't allow for a great amount of depth about them. Policeman Tang Sing (Jordan Chan) is the most interesting of the students. He walks a fine line between the cops and crooks, and although he stops his training, still pays tribute to his teacher. To show how tough life has become, a family Ip Man and his wife know is introduced, and it is revealed they had to sell their youngest child in order to feed the other children. Not only is that idea shocking but the scene is as well because the film hasn't shown a trend towards or consistent level of such desperation. In one of the stranger scenes, a former student shows up out of the blue and Ip Man wants very little to do with him, though it's not clear why. It adds little to the film and should have been cut.
The action is good but not very memorable. Twice, Ip Man has friendly fights against people in small rooms intended to demonstrate his skills, once while remaining standing on a towel. The final fight takes place as a hurricane is hitting Hong Kong. The wind adds obstacles the men must deal with, but it doesn't rise to the level of must-see. Also, while understandably necessary, there is a little too much artificial acceleration in the recording of scenes.
More biopic than action flick, 'Ip Man: The Final Fight' delivers enough for a worthwhile viewing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ip Man: The Final Fight' is a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed with a standard blue keepcase, which comes on a slipcase. After a Well Go USA promo, it shows trailers for their 2014 releases: 'Iceman', 'Special ID', 'The Wrath of Vajra'.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. Colors are can be bright and strong, as seen early on in the signs along the streets of Hong Kong, and they appear in a range of hues as seen in the variety of browns in Lee Man's apartment. Fleshtones appear consistent throughout and blacks are solid.
The source was clean and free of grain. The image presents sharp focus and very fine detail, as seen in the discernible grains of rice in Ip Man's first meal and the scars on Dragon's face. Due to a stylistic effects choice, the picture appears poor when visuals accompany the radio broadcast about the Dragon and the newspaper account of Ip Man fighting. A slight bit of banding occurs when Ip Man imagines his wife while he is sick. Otherwise, the image looks free of artifacts.
The audio is available both Cantonese and English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. I mostly listened to the former for the review. Dialogue is well balanced with the music and effects, and the entire track offers a satisfying dynamic range. While good ambiance can be heard, such as during the storm during the climax, imaging seemed negligible. The throwing of fists and kicks can be heard in the surrounds and have exaggerated oomph from the bass when they make contact.
Wherever the Bonus Features begin, they play-all through the remainder.
Making of (HD, 9 min) – Broken down into five segments, we get a brief, standard look behind the scenes.
Cast & Crew (HD, 21 min) – Eleven members offers their thoughts on the production. Anthony Wong speaks the longest at about five minutes. Some of the others are less than a minute.
Trailer (HD) – Both the U.S. (2 min) and International (2 min) trailers are available.
'Ip Man: The Final Fight' will likely be of the most interest to those who already know the man, but there's enough of a story that it won't exclude those who don't. The disc offers a satisfying high-def presentation, but the extras are rather lacking. It's worth seeing, but don't think it's worth owning for multiple rewatches.