A handful of recent movies have served up sections of the life of 20th century kung fu master Ip Man, whose teachings, like the proverbial Velvet Underground myth about rock bands, spawned a generation's worth of martial artists (including Bruce Lee). Five years after the crowd-pleasing early-days action film "Ip Man," and on the heels of Wong Kar Wai's meditative epic "The Grandmaster," comes Herman Yau's so-so opus "Ip Man: The Final Fight."
Covering the Chinese legend's later years in British-controlled 1950s Hong Kong — here represented by colorful if backlot-obvious street sets — it features sturdy character actor Anthony Wong in the title role. The emphasis is on his relationship with his eager students, who include a rowdy young man, a morally confused cop involved with gangsters, and a spirited female union organizer. Wong is serenely forceful when it comes to espousing his character's belief that kung fu is more inner strength than outer brutality, but he is also admirably fleet of foot when eventually required to vanquish baddies.
The fights, doled out judiciously amid more tender scenes revolving around aging, instruction and community, even have a delightfully old-fashioned body-blow groundedness to them. But the overall sense is of a rushed, simplistic installment in a well-worn biography franchise.
"Ip Man: The Final Fight." MPAA Rating: PG-13 for martial arts violence. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Laemmle Noho 7 and AMC Atlantic Times Square, Monterey Park. Also on VOD.