'Ip Man 4' Review | Heartfelt tale of a martial arts master fated to lose — to death

Death is something he can’t punch or kick to escape from.

“Ip Man 4” may have all the folderol of martial arts matches like its previous iterations, but the finalé centers on how the Wing Chun master begins putting his affairs in order after learning that he has cancer. Time is ticking - he goes to the U.S. to find a school for his rebellious son, at the time when white supremacists abound in the police and in the marines.

Those looking for over-the-top action scenes won’t be disappointed, especially those that would enjoy a match involving a dinner table. There are scenes that may be quite disturbing but necessary to address the racism existing in 60s America. Still, Ip Man is painted as a paragon of humility, only involving himself to fight when kung fu is being maligned.

Those who felt disappointed with the portrayal of Bruce Lee in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time in ... Hollywood" would like Ip Man 4's version of his famous student. Here, he was characterized as someone who does not start fights but won't back down from any challenge.

The finalé’s strength is its quiet moments. The melodrama hits you when Donnie Yen’s protagonist finally reveals his illness. It shows that despite the superhuman skills the martial arts expert has shown in the previous three films, he is not unique. The world will go on without him. But he leaves a legacy as a father, and his teachings to his students of Wing Chun.

Ip Man’s last hurrah on the big screen can trigger more tears than cheers. Bring tissues.

Rating: 8.5/10

Ip Man 4 is now showing in the Philippines. The reviewer was invited to a private screening by its local distributor Hiraya.