Punching Racism Out of People

Traveling to 1964 America, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) brings with him an idealism. He wants his son to study abroad – to have the best of everything. That’s not so easy.

Ip Man 4 stages a critical early scene in which the local Chinese community’s representative Wan Zong Hua (Yue Wu) admonishes Ip Man because Ip Man’s student, Bruce Lee, is teaching westerners the ways of Chinese kung-fu. At this meeting, there’s a table with an ornate, spinning glass top. Wan and Ip spin the glass, then stop it, applying their strength until the glass cracks. It’s not anger, but symbolic. Those Chinese immigrants who lived in the US harbor resentment as their traditions slip away and bigotry saps their freedom; Ip hasn’t yet experienced the hate.

Set one year before the US entered the Vietnam year, Ip Man 4 shows an unwavering confidence in western society. American characters belittle Asian immigrants, believing western martial arts superior, and the Chinese to be lesser opponents. With hindsight, Ip Man 4 appears prophetic in suggesting why Vietnam became a miscalculated quagmire – arrogance, a sense of superiority, and unwillingness to see foreigners as equal.

Ip Man 4 appears prophetic in suggesting why Vietnam became a miscalculated quagmire

At times, it’s a lot. Ip Man 4 isn’t subtle. The English-speaking cast is played primarily non-actors, and the violent discrimination too often feels phony. That’s especially true at the high school level, where cheerleading turns into east vs. west confrontation, American bits played with zero nuance to embellish the villainy. That goes for Scott Adkins too, a military commander rejecting any suggestion that kung-fu might help, and regularly berating his multi-cultural troop.

Of course, Ip Man 4’s artificiality doesn’t erase the real world hate, then and now. Raids by immigration officials over cultural fears and day-to-day bias against Asians certainly speak to the current moment too. Elsewhere, the contemplative, even sorrowful tone surrounding Ip Man celebrates this master’s life and contribution. Early in Ip Man 4, he’s diagnosed with cancer, and in this story, since he can’t heal himself, he seeks to heal national and personal relationships. One of those works, the other cannot be solved by one man.

Fight highlights serve to bring sides together, letting egos clash and the two nationalities work out their differences. The best brawl doesn’t go to Donnie Yen (he’s closing on 60 now, in his defense), rather Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan, playing Bruce Lee, and with high-end choreography, stages a cramped alleyway brawl. Nunchucks and a steel pipe add a particular mean streak, if not without cause. Respect is earned. Lee’s opponent relents, a hard fought method of tolerance.

Video

Shot digitally with a 2K finish, the end result on Well Go’s UHD is… middling. Even accounting for production values, the smeary, unnaturally bland textures lack refinement. Other than certain close-ups, definition wanes. That’s true for interiors and exteriors, whiffing on sharpness, then weakened by additional processing. Ringing and imprecise noise reduction take their toll.

Color grading pushed a heavy amber tone in post, impacting flesh tones and primaries. The goal, obviously, is to add age, but the aggressiveness withers the appeal. Red lanterns hanging over Chinatown veer toward an odd orange, the deep color unable to add much of anything. Instead, it’s just garish.

Likewise, HDR additions look listless. Lights glow, albeit to a limited degree. Black levels wane, dense enough to keep depth consistent, while lacking in pure black shadows. The Blu-ray suffices here since the spiked contrast looks equal.

Audio

In Cantonese, Dolby Atmos wastes no opportunity to expand its range. If anything, the mix is bloated, with boomy low-end denied any finesse. Every punch hits like a bomb. The track runs overly hot, a definite workout for any system, but not always appealing. It’s funny that a short earthquake sounds less powerful than a kick.

Overall ambiance stays high, making up for the mundane positional work elsewhere. Fights rarely stretch out into the soundstage. Things like airports and crowds pleasingly deliver precision. And that earthquake mentioned above is great, with a chandelier rattling overhead, and debris falling in each channel.

Extras

Three pitiful two minute EPKs and trailers, all of this on the Blu-ray.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

IP Man 4: The Finale
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Challenging America’s racist attitudes, Ip Man 4 isn’t subtle, but has its heart in the right place to send off this real world inspiration.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 37 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: