Updated: Feb 14, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Master Ip (Donnie Yen) faces U.S. Marine's martial arts (karate) instructor Colin Frater (Chris Collins) during the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival contest.
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“IP MAN 4: THE FINALE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray; 2019; Not Rated, contains brutal martial arts violence, and cruel racial epithets and stereotypes; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The 10-Year Legend”
BIGOTS AND BULLIES have always been the enemy in the “Ip Man” series.
The 2008 “Ip Man,” set in 1930, shows Donnie Yen’s wing chun grandmaster standing up for the people of Foshan against the brutal Japanese invaders of the Sino-Japanese War. It’s easy to become involved with Mr. Ip, his family and neighbors, who drive the story as much as the martial arts action. It’s the best of the four films, with outstanding period detail and mood.
“Ip Man 2” (2010) takes place in 1949 Hong Kong, where Ip tries to set up a martial arts school. Opposition comes from the syndicate of grandmasters that control the schools, and ruthless British forces that occupy the city. Fighting for Chinese home rule, Ip must defeat Western favorite, Taylor 'The Twister' Milos (Darren Shahlavi), a boxer “so over the top he would have to dial down to become a pro wrestler,” the late Roger Ebert writes in his review. It might be easy to take offense at nasty western stereotypes, except Director Wilson Yip and Producer Raymond Wong deliver Chinese villains, too.
“Ip Man 3” (2015) takes us to 1959 Hong Kong, where Teacher Ip leads a quiet life with his wife and youngest son. But then a triad leader, played by boxing champion Mike Tyson, decides to take over the school where Ip’s child attends. Property is at a premium. Twister and Ip have a showdown, so does Tyson's baddie and Ip, but the best action comes from the team of Yen and Cheung Tin-chi (listed as Max Zhang). Zhang plays a rickshaw operator and wing chun master, who wants to open his own school. He’s also father to another youngster, a friend to Ip’s son. His character actually gets a spin-off film, “Master Z: Ip Man Legacy” (2018).
(1) Ip Man is diagnosed with late-stage, terminal throat cancer. (2) He stops by his wife's memorial. (3) An American student of Bruce Lee visits the grandmaster's Wing Chun school of fighting in Hong Kong. (4) Ip's son Ching (He Ye) has been expelled from school for fighting. He is always in conflict with his father.
“A martial artist has a strong sense of justice. Going beyond keeping his body fit and healthy, he practices with a sense of duty to righteousness, or a sense of duty to society. When justice is lost, he will step up and take a stand.” — Yip Wai Shun, director
These films are more than martial arts action vehicles; they are imaginative re-tellings of historical times in the life of the man who became Bruce Lee’s martial arts teacher. Continuity is very good with leading man Donnie Yen, Director Wilson Yip, and Producer Raymond Wong in charge of each film. Choreographing fight sequences is the great Sammo Hung (Sammo Kam-Bo Hung), who plays a Hong Kong martial arts master in “Ip Man 2.” Ebert reports Mr. Hung “filmed his big scene not long after having heart surgery.” These men are as tough in real life as they are on screen.
The legendary Woo-Ping Yuen of the “Matrix” and “Kill Bill” films steps in as action director/choreographer for “Ip Man 4: The Finale.”
“Wing chun battles tai chi, karate, kickboxing and mixed-style. The action choreography is dazzling for sure.” — Yuen Wo-ping, Action Director, “Ip Man 4”
The amazing Donnie Yen was born in China, his mother a kung-fu master and his father a newspaper editor and musician. It’s interesting to note how journalists, photographers, and newspapers are heroic advocates in the fight for freedom in the “Ip” films. Yen moved with his family to Hong Kong when he was two-years-old, and to Boston when he was 11. A staple of martial arts cinema, he is a favorite in Western films such as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” He’ll play Commander Tung in the live-action “Mulan,” release date to be determined. Well Go USA fans also love him in his two “Iceman” films.
While the “Ip” films are best watched as a series, they can be enjoyed individually. “Ip Man 4: The Finale” is more for the fans. A heavy smoker, Mr. Ip is diagnosed with throat cancer, just as he learns his teen son Ip Ching (He Ye) has been expelled from school. “He must plan for his son’s future,” says Director Yip Wai Shun. “Since his wife passed away [of ovarian cancer], he has become a single parent. A fighter tries to make a new home with a rebellious teenager, conflicts are likely to happen,” says Kent Cheng, who plays Ip’s friend Bob.
(1) Ip arrives in San Francisco and meets with the Chinese Benevolent Association and its tai chi master Wan Zhong Hua (Wu Yue). (2&3) Bruce Lee (Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan) faces a back alley challenge after a tournament. (4) Wan Zong Hua's daughter Wan Yonah (Vanda Margraf) is attacked by Becky (Grace Englert) a fellow cheerleader and her high school thugs. (5) Ip breaks up the assault at the private California school, where he's trying to get his son admitted.
The grandmaster heads to 1964 San Francisco to find a new school for his son, wondering if Ip Ching will develop better focus. There he learns his student Bruce Lee – a foreshadowed presence in each film – has unhinged the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association by opening a school of his own, and publishing a book on wing chun making Chinese martial arts accessible to everyone. Ip needs a letter from the association to enroll his son in school, but it won’t happen unless he puts an end to Lee’s activities. Ha – just who do they think they’re talking to? Mr. Ip politely but firmly refuses. Everyone should be able to learn wing chunif they want.
Bruce Lee is played by Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan of “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004) and “Shaolin Soccer” (2001). He also appeared in “Ip Man 3.”
“Through ‘Ip Man 4,’ I want to present how Bruce Lee and Ip Man impact the world with Chinese Kung Fu.” — Yip Wai Shun, director
Young Wan Yonah (Vanda Margraf), daughter of association leader Wan Zong Hua (Yue Wu), is also introduced along with school-teen bully Becky (Grace Englert) and her high school thugs. Then there’s U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins), and Marine Karate Instructor Colin Frater (Chris Collins) also representing American bigots. Gah – these ugly frogs rule their little ponds with maniacal intensity. Sadly, it’s more accurate than fake. The behavior wasn’t only acceptable during the time, it was encouraged. On the other hand, there are several compassionate Western characters, some in positions of authority.
As the story winds down, “Ip Man 4” has flashbacks to the earlier films showing high- and low-points of his life. Suspense is paramount in Yen’s performance. Can he get his son on the right path? Does he have the strength to stand up to another fight? It’s not age that affects him so much as the life he’s led, and we see how much he feels it.
“This film series has been in my life for 11 years. Ip Man is a signal of dignity of the Chinese people. When our dignity is violated, how do we rise again? This is the main theme in the Ip Man series.” — Donnie Yen
(1) The bigoted Drill Sergeant Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins). (2) INS officers confront Wan Zhong Hua. (3-5) The Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival contest where Colin Frater defeats the masters of the CBA until Master Ip hits the stage.
Well Go USA is just beginning to supply films in 4K UHD on disc and streaming. “Ip Man 4: The Finale” was digitally captured on Arri Alexa cameras, processed in 2K with Dolby Vision, and upgraded to 4K, with HDR toning for viewing. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1. Like its other recent 4K release, “Ne Zha” – China’s biggest animated blockbuster ever with quality comparable to Pixar or DreamWorks – “Ip Man” looks great. It’s a promising future for Well Go films.
Like its predecessors, “Ip Man 4” maintains a sepia color tone, with a good splash of film grain. Color is warm and inviting, with great attention to detail as in an astonishing single-hand battle between Ip’s wing chun and Wan Zong Hua’s (Wu Yue) tai chi. It takes place in Wan’s home, filled intricate furnishings and art. The fight climaxes as an earthquake shatters the room. Another sequence takes place during China Town’s Mid-Autumn festival. Streets absolutely blossom with detail.
It’s an excellent upgrade compared to the HD presentation, which is fine on its own. Color is richer, contrast stronger and detail sharper in 4K as you would imagine.
“The grand battle between wing chun and tai chi [took] almost 10 full days to film. Single-hand battle is unprecedented in the previous ‘Ip Man’ movies.” — Wu Yue
I prefer to watch foreign films in the original language with English subtitles. It’s always the best viewing experience. For “Ip Man 4,” find an energetic nine-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivering dialogue, effects and score throughout the room. It’s top of the line. The English dub is good, but only available in 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio.
Kenji Kawai, who composed the original “Ip Man” themes, returns for the finale. He also composed scores for “Ghost in the Shell,” “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings” (2018), “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” (2013), and many other films, series and games.
There are three good bonus features on the Blu-ray disc: A “Making Of,” “The 10-Year Legend,” “The Story,” and three trailers. The featurettes include interviews with cast and crew.
“To be able to play the same character four times has been a great privilege and blessing.” — Donnie Yen
Ip, who lived from 1893-1972, has inspired many stories, films and series. Yen doesn’t portray him as the all-wise master or champion. He presents Ip as a decent human being, who loves his family and is devoted to his art. Conscientious, polite and smart, he’s the stand-up man we all wish we knew. We’re going to miss you, Ip Man.
— Kay Reynolds
(1&2) Master Ip battles drill sergeant Barton Geddes. (3) Ip returns home and instructs his son using the Wing Chun wooden dummy called Mu ren zhuang.