Ip Man 3
2015, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Wilson Yip. Starring Donnie Yen, Zhang Jin, Lynn Xiong, Mike Tyson, Patrick Tam, Karena Ng, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Sarut Khanwilai.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Neither as aesthetically sumptuous as director Wong Kar-Wai’s 2013 The Grandmaster nor quite as martially masterful as its predecessors, this third entry in Wilson Yip’s ongoing Ip Man series still – ahem – kicks ass and elbows amidst plenty of rollicking, Wing Chun fisticuff set-pieces. Possibly, Yip set the bar too high for even himself to top in his immensely entertaining first two Ip Man movies. Here, in what feels like a semi-desperate casting gamble, Mike Tyson shows up as a heavy who pits raw K.O. brawn against Ip Man’s agile, geometrically graceful style of martial artistry (and the Wing Chun school of self-defense is nothing if not art).
The main reason to see Ip Man 3 remains Donnie Yen’s indelible characterization of the man who most famously trained a young Bruce Lee, seen here, briefly, by dead ringer (and Jeet Kune Do master) Chan Kwok-Kwan. In the previous films, we’ve seen the ever unflappable Ip Man weather the Sino-Japanese war of 1937, move his family to Hong Kong, establish his legendary school of martial arts, and face off against both British colonialism and a gang of local thugs led by famed actor/director/stunt coordinator Sammo Hung. Ip Man 3 takes place in 1959 and once again the preternaturally serene grandmaster is forced to defend his property and his family from multiple outside forces, chief among them Tyson and a poor rickshaw driver (The Grandmaster’s Zhang Jin) who harbors both superlative Wing Chun skills and a yen for glory (or at least a way out of poverty). Far more affecting for followers of the Ip Man storyline is the fact that Ip’s beloved wife Cheung Wing-sing (Xiong) is stricken by cancer. Amidst the brawls and standoffs – in particular a breathless, close-quarters skirmish in an elevator against Muay Thai fighter Sarut Khanwilai – Yen and Hung raise some powerful, atypical-for-the-genre emotional stakes in the face of Mrs. Ip’s illness.
Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Award-winner and all-around martial arts icon Yuen Woo-ping has here replaced Sammo Hung as the series’ fight choreographer, with the resulting action sequences feeling more fluid and less battering until, naturally, Iron Mike goes mano a mano against Ip in (another of the series’) East-meets-West smackdowns. In the end, Ip Man 3 doesn’t quite rise to the dizzying heights of the first two films, but then again, this will almost certainly be your only chance to see Mike Tyson go up against Donnie Yen.