It seems the season of Ip Man movies is upon us. Late last month, filmmaker Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster” arrived in area theaters. Now, “Ip Man: The Final Fight” opens.
Both are distillations of the life and times of the late Ip Man, widely regarded as one of China’s most influential practitioners and teachers of the art of kung fu. Unlike “The Grandmaster” — which dramatizes Ip Man’s rise to prominence in his home city of Foshan, his impoverishment during World War II and his rise to greater fame after he moved to postwar Hong Kong and became the teacher of Bruce Lee — director Herman Yau’s “Final Fight” limits itself to the Hong Kong years. (Yau covered his subject’s earlier life in 2010’s “The Legend Is Born: Ip Man.”)
“The Grandmaster,” with its epic sweep and gorgeous visuals, is like grand opera. “The Final Fight” is more like soap opera, set-bound and unexceptionally written and directed.
Played by Anthony Wong, Yau’s Ip Man is courtly, calm and impressively disciplined, dispensing aphorisms like “only brutes use force, wise men use virtue” to his students and dispatching adversaries with precisely calibrated martial-arts moves and blows.
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The fight scenes are relatively few, outnumbered by scenes of Ip Man dining and drinking tea with various characters as they discuss plot points.
The complicated plot concerns Ip’s Man’s rivalry with another kung-fu master; a conflict with one of Ip Man’s students, who decides to open his own school; the moral dilemma of another student, this one a corrupt cop; and a budding romance between Ip Man and a lovely singer. The character of Bruce Lee appears briefly, and only at the end.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com