Review: Ip Man 4: The Finale

PLOT: In this, the fourth film in the IP MAN franchise, the legendary Kung Fu master travels to San Franciso in hopes of finding a better life for his son. However, once he arrives, he discovers that a few of the locals aren't ready to accept his style of martial arts in America.

REVIEW: When it comes to modern action tales, there is a quiet charm to the IP MAN series. In the third – and most likely last – sequel, IP MAN 4: THE FINALE, Donnie Yen once again returns as the Kung Fu master who trained Bruce Lee (Kwok-Kwan Chan). While the latest sequel is filled with numerous fight sequences that are especially impressive thanks to a terrific stunt team, it’s also a very personal tale. As wild as the stunt work gets, the film gives Mr. Yen the chance to truly say farewell to the character in a satisfying way. This final story deals with a number of weighty issues that include racism during the 1960’s in San Francisco, as well as a troubled teenager who can’t seem to control his anger, and most importantly, the deadly seriousness of a character dealing with cancer.

While on a doctor’s visit, Ip Man (Yen) gets the news that nobody wants to hear, he is diagnosed with cancer. Afraid to tell his troubled teenager, especially after the death of his wife, he decides to look into a private school in San Francisco in hopes that it may give his son a fresh start. However, once he arrives, he discovers that even Wan Zong Hua (Wu Yue), the head of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn. is frustrated by the work with his student, Bruce Lee, who is training Americans the art of Kung Fu. Things get even more complicated when he is visiting the school and comes across the daughter of Wan Zong Hua being viciously bullied by several students. This leads to a clash with a couple of individuals who carry a huge grudge against the CCBA, including a karate instructor for the U.S. Military (Chris Collins) and Gunnery Sergeant Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins).

Ip Man 4, The Finale, Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Wilson Yip, action, biography, Bruce Lee, 2019

This particular franchise took awhile to really grow on me. Having only been a mild fan of Kung Fu flicks, I’ve enjoyed how they explore the calm, yet incredibly skilled title character. Donnie Yen truly brings class to this action heavy story. One scene involving a rotating table is far more entertaining than it has any right to be, and pretty much every major fight sequence in the film makes for a good show. Yet none of this would work if it wasn’t for the strength that Yen brings to this character. Certainly his stoic demeanor doesn’t really allow for the actor to bring a heavy dramatic and emotional energy to his performance. Still, there is something dynamic about the way he responds to the many challenges he faces here.

As good as he is, the story line isn’t anything new or original. In fact, the plot really isn’t shy about taking on perhaps too many subjects, and the outcome varies depending on the story it’s presenting. As for the villains, it’s easy to despise both Scott Adkins’ Geddess and Chris Collins’ Colin Frater. These guys are painted as malicious and racist jerks, and really don’t have a whole lot of layers. They are just bad people who despise the presence of the CCBA. With Adkins – who makes for a manically macho heavy – there is a bit of silliness as he mocks the art of Kung Fu. His hatred for what it represents almost feels a bit cartoonish. However, as generic as these guys are written, both Collins and Adkins are clearly having a good time chewing the scenery. And when they ultimately do go mano a mano against Yen, it’s one hell of a watch.

As far as a final film, they do their best to honor this franchise in an interesting way. This includes a montage of all the previous films, one that helps remind viewers of how damn good the action has continually been. This series blends the charm of creating a story with an intense level of fighting, yet still manages to utilize the silent strength of the title character. Even with its convoluted storyline, it’s easy to root for Donnie Yen, as well as the young girl named Yonah (Vanda Margraf) who add a bit of heart to this feature. You also have to once again give credit to Kwok-Kwan Chan. The actor is a perfect choice to portray the legendary Bruce Lee in his younger days. While he is only a small part of this sequel, he certainly leaves an impression.

Ip Man 4, The Finale, Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Kwok-Kwan Chan, Bruce Lee, biography, action, 2019, Wilson Yip

IP MAN 4: THE FINALE is a satisfying conclusion to the franchise. Donnie Yen continues to create a sympathetic, yet kick ass lead. The fight choreography is pretty astounding, and the bad guys are really, really bad – maybe even a little bit ridiculously bad compared to Yen’s calm and controlled hero. Sure the script tries a bit too hard to bring it all home, but it still manages to offer a few touching moments in between the stunning fights. This unique mix of a biographical story and a fictionalized action flick finishes off with a heartfelt final, thanks to director Wilson Yip. And yes, it’s a bittersweet end to an impressive tribute to the real life Ip Man, courtesy of Donnie Yen. If you are already invested in the IP MAN franchise, you'll be pleased with this last chapter.

Review: Ip Man 4: The Finale




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.