In 2019, Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey films, Star Wars: Rogue One) returned to the character that made him an international star, Master IP Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee. This time, Master IP finds out that he has terminal cancer shortly after his wife dies. He is also confronted with a rebellious son who has no interest in studying at school and just got expelled. So what does he do? Master IP goes to 'racist' San Francisco to look for educational opportunities for his son. So, is this movie worth your nearly two hours of time on Netflix?
Looking back at the first IP Man that came out in 2008, this third sequel really shows how much Hong Kong films have changed over this past decade. The first film was a slow burn revolving around the Japanese occupation of China during World War II and the brutality the Chinese people endured. Since this movie was based around actual history, it was an incredibly good movie. Due to the film’s international success, Hong Kong did what American filmmakers have been doing for forty years (Who says globalization doesn’t work?). They turned IP Man into a franchise. The second movie was decent until the plot of Rocky 4 became the story and IP Man had to show the racist and brutal American Taylor “The Twister” Miller who was the greatest fighter in the world. IP Man 3 brought me back into the franchise with a more laid back and comical plot mixed in with a memorable fight scene with legendary boxer Mike Tyson (Which ends with mutual respect in a draw. Something Tyson wishes he could have gotten against Evander Holyfield.) Over five years later, we get the conclusion to the franchise.
IP Man 4 is a train wreck almost from the start. Donnie Yen, who has had a distinguished martial arts acting career for over 30 years as well as being a fight choreographer on multiple films, looked like he cashed the paycheck before filming began. His emotions are subdued, and he often just wanders from one martial arts set piece to another. To bring about a good comparison to this movie, just load up any Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris film from the 1980s/1990s and bring in a Soviet Russian/Middle Eastern Arab/South American or Colombian drug lord/villain that needs to be punched in the face or killed and you get a good idea of where this movie is heading. But because we live in a time of globalization, the villain this time is the United States and its racist past best exemplified by Marine Gunnery Sergeant Barton Geddes.
Is this film Chinese propaganda? Absolutely. Just like all those American action movies in the 20th Century were All the American characters are one dimensional, usually evil, with no emotional arcs. Every Chinese character is complex and working to just celebrate their culture in the United States until the horrible white people intervene. The movie constantly reinforces the idea of a “United China” throughout the movie. The great thing about globalization is that we can now have other countries make equally terrible action movies with the United States as the villain. No matter how you feel about this, I have the same horrible instinctual irritated feeling about this film as I did for Rambo 2: First Blood II and its portrayal of the Vietnamese.
More than anything though, I have been terribly disappointed in recent Chinese films. While South Korea is killing it with their movies over the past decade and Japan is undergoing a resurgence, the quality of the Chinese and Hong Kong films has significantly declined over the past decade. For a person who grew up loving films by Wong Kar-Wai, Zhang Yimou and the amazingly funny Stephen Chow as well as Taiwanese director Ang Lee and my first obsession, Gong Li, I am incredibly disappointed with the abandonment of art for entertainment going on in Chinese cinema. If I want to watch horrible action movies, all I need to do is engage with the Fast and the Furious franchise. It is incredibly disappointing that mainstream Chinese cinema has chosen to go this direction (At least from what we are mostly allowed to see in the United States). The unique Hong Kong style seems to have been abandoned during this time when China is becoming a global power. Let us hope they can restore the amazing film experiences of my youth with their innovative storytelling, original fight scenes and incredible acting. Because if they keep butchering inspired novels like The Three Body Problem with a terribly bad adaptation called The Wandering Earth, I will move onto one of the hundreds of amazingly cinematic television shows (Like most of the world's population has done).
EXPERT OF SOME