Only a couple years ago, I knew nothing of Ip Man, the Chinese Martial Arts Grandmaster, who taught Bruce Lee. My wife begged me for months and months to watch it, and while there was not really a major reason why I didn’t, I more just wasn’t ‘In the mood” to. Finally after spending way too much time going through the thousands of movies on Plex and not finding anything, we landed on Ip Man 1 and I finally just pushed play.
After the movie was over, I turned to my wife and said “Wow, that was amazing!” and she told me there were two more movies we could watch soon. “Soon” didn’t happen until a couple days ago, where we watched both Ip Man 2 & 3 back to back. I enjoyed them enough, but they started to border on the unrealistic side of cinema. And no, I’m not talking about the wire assisted fighting scenes, but just the overall portrayal of the characters. As the series is based on a real life person, as the movies went on, they became more sensationalized, with the second movie basically being Rocky 4 and the third having some just ridiculous scenes with Mike Tyson in 1950’s Hong Kong.
Even though they were falling into the realm of fiction more often than not, at the heart of every movie was Ip Man, a man just trying to live his life and provide for his family, but keeps getting dragged into situations because he is revered as a morally just and right guy. He’ll intervene when he needs to when he sees injustice happening.
Ip Man 4 follows up the last movie with him coping with the loss of his wife who had cancer. He also discovers that he has been diagnosed with cancer as well, and now must figure out what to do with his kid Jin, who has gotten expelled for causing so many fights in school. So Ip Man flies out to San Francisco to see his student Bruce Lee and also tries to get Jin a recommendation letter from the Chinese Benevolent Association so he can attend school in America.
Bruce Lee is in this movie, but only for a single main scene, which doesn’t actually make much sense. As Ip and Lee are having tea at a local diner after a performance Lee has put on, a rival karate school calls Lee out. They head into an alleyway and Lee proceeds to beat the ever loving crap out of the Karate Man, with that signature Bruce Lee style, attitude and all.
What follows is nothing short of what can only be described as a blatant modern propaganda film. The movie devolves into “Kill Whitey: The Movie” as the major plot switches to the CBA’s head who’s daughter gets bullied by a white girl who can’t stand that she lost the cheerleading leadership spot to a Chinise girl. The girl gets her boyfriend’s gang to corner the girl and beat her up. Yes, a gang of about 7 guys beat up a helpless girl. As the fight goes on, the white girl gets accidently cut on the face as she tries to cut the chinese girl’s hair.
When White Girl runs crying home, her family gets involved and her dad is the head police officer of the INS. He goes and rounds up all the Chinese in the CBA to get deported.
As that is going on, a Chinese marine is being bullied by his gunnery Sergeant. The sergeant has a pet lackey who teaches Karate, which is better than the Chinese marine’s “fake kung-phooey”. The Sarget takes it on himself to berate the nobel Chinese by having his lackey show up at his community celebration and show how superior his American made Karate is compared to the laughable Chinese Kung-Fu.
Back at the government office, the CBA’s head is threatened to be deported,but his daughter pleads for the release of her father to the Sergeant. The father agrees to fight the Sergeant and they are whisked away to a darkly lit mat in the middle of the night, as marines in their underwear watch their drill sergeant physically assault a civilian in the name of white supremacy.
After the sergeant break’s the CBA’s head leader’s leg and almost murders him in front of his entire platoon while having it being filmed, Ip Man shows up and defeats him. The End.
Notice how I didn’t talk about Ip Man at all, that’s because this film isn’t about him. Its about everyone else, and even as nonsensical as the couple of plots are, those plots have the main characters in it. Ip Man isn’t the focus of this film and it shows. Every scene that he isn’t in, is an absolute travesty. The Americans are only pictured as hateful racist bigots, with zero redeeming qualities, every single one of them. The acting is atrocious from everyone who hasn’t been in these films before, and none of the actions from anyone in the film is so out of touch with reality, this movie might as well have taken place in space in the year 4029. The portrayal of the American government and military borders on laughable, as no drill sergeant would ever scream at the top of his lungs that he is from a superior race.
And to have this as the final film in a franchise is just such a bummer and a stain on the excellent films that preceded this one. It feels much more like a spin-off made for DVD movie over a finalization of a franchise. There is no real send off, except for a solid 30 second montage at the end which seems about as tacked on as every subplot in this movie. Apparently Donny Yen is just getting older and can’t keep up with the pace of these fights and just wants to be done, but man, this was not the way to do it. Someone has to make a fan edit of this movie, and even though it’d probably be only about 25 minutes long, it’d be a better movie than what the theatrical release was. Ip Man deserves better.