Ip Man: The Final Fight

IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT
葉問 終極一戰
(Hong Kong, 2012)
North American Premiere
102 minutes, DCP, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Herman Yau
Starring: Anthony Wong, Gillian Chung, Eric Tsang, Jordan Chan
Director Herman Yau and screenwriter Erica Li will attend the screening.

The hottest character in movies right now is Ip Man, the wing chun master who moved from Mainland China to Hong Kong after World War II and took on Bruce Lee as his student. Donnie Yen changed his career starring as Ip Man in two movies, and there have been a dozen others, but this flick is Herman Yau’s love letter to Hong Kong, a warts and all portrait of its history. It isn’t about individual heroism but an Occupy Hong Kong surge of street protests, labor strikes, anti-colonial politics, and fist-pumping radicalism.

Anthony Wong, director Yau’s favorite collaborator, plays Ip Man not as a legend but as a middle aged immigrant who comes to Hong Kong to rebuild his life. He’s not a martial arts superhero, just a man eking out a living with his skills, a guy who saves rusty cups from the garbage. The film focuses on the poverty that warps the lives of he and his students: a union organizer (Timmy Hung, Sammo Hung’s son) caught up in the anti-British labor movement, a Chinese cop (Jordan Chan, Chicken in the Young & Dangerous films) who chooses corruption as his path through the ranks of the colonial police force, and a struggling dim sum girl (Gillian Chung, of the superstar pop duo TWINS). Wong’s Ip Man struggles to keep his humanity in the face of a changing world where poverty is turning so many Chinese into victims, not victors. In a harrowing scene, his friend confesses to selling one of his sons because the rest of his family was starving. But this film’s Ip Man doesn’t judge, he merely orders another drink for his weeping buddy. After all, what other comfort can he offer?

That’s not to say the flick skimps on action. Tsui Hark’s favorite action choreographer, Xiong Xin-xin (Once Upon a Time in China 3, The Blade) turns in brutally realistic work, turning Anthony Wong into a convincing martial artist. And Ken Lo, Jackie Chan’s high-kicking bodyguard, is on hand, too, the pair playing ruthless crime bosses operating out of a meticulously recreated Walled City of Kowloon, a part of Hong Kong so dangerous the police wouldn’t venture inside. But ultimately, this is a movie with more on its mind than who can punch harder. It’s about how a legend can grow from the humblest beginnings, it’s about the legacy we leave behind, and it’s about a middle-aged man enduring the humiliations of marrying a younger woman because he doesn’t want to grow old alone. It’s not about one hero named Ip Man, it’s about his school, his students, and the family he finds in Hong Kong that give him his strength. Everything else is just a myth.

Part of the Well Go USA Spotlight

Sunday July 30, 6:30PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets