Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Max Zhang (Zhang Jin), Mike Tyson, Patrick Tam, Danny Chan, Kent Cheng, Bryan (Beardy) Leung
As I sat in the theater, I began to think to myself... I've liked the Ip Man films since before anyone I had met knew what they were. Now, I don't mean that I'm cool or anything, but I spent a lot of my last year of high school showing everyone that I physically could, the very 1st installment of the trilogy. It blew peoples' minds. Donnie Yen kicking ass and taking names. His fists flying into peoples' faces at light speed. The chain punch. It was like finding a piece of rare 'something valuable inserted here', that I wanted to show to everyone. Well, you're not here for my backstory, so to the jump the gun and get this review started, Yen and Yip's Ip Man Trilogy has become the biggest thing in martial arts cinema history since Bruce Lee breaking out onto the scene all those years ago. To end this particular thought, I wondered, "Can they botch this up? Is it possible not to like a Donnie Yen Ip Man film? Should I be skeptical?". The subtle thought of negativity began to seep through me, but as the lights dimmed, the speakers increased in volume, and that familiar tune began to play, the worry washed away, and I knew I was in for something special, and the same genuine grin the 1st two films left on my face, found itself on full display for almost the entirety of this picture. Ip Man 3 just happens to be my favorite of the trilogy, and here's why...
"Juth Get to the Good Thtuff Already!"
Review (Spoiler Free):
So, the films starts (and this isn't spoiling) with a young man, full of pep in his step, walking into Mr. Ip Man's home, asking to become a disciple. We finally see who the man is, and it is none other than Bruce Lee, who as we all know, became Ip's most famous disciple. So, again, without getting too much into it, do not expect the Bruce character in the film at all, because he isn't in it much, in fact only twice, and very briefly. Now, that's not a complaint for me, as I knew the film went through some drastic changes when they weren't able to use Lee's likeness and what not, and there is a whole rigmarole which I won't get into, but for those interested, use that world wide web at your finger tips.
"Tell me, do I look like the guy from Shaolin Soccer?"
Anyway, back on track, we do have a plot, but it's pretty straightforward like the other two entries in the series, and as usual, it isn't really the main focus. Ip and his family gets into dilemmas, Ip beats some major ass, family moves on. There is a lot to talk about here, but without getting into spoiler territory, and not wanting to overly explain things, I just want to get it out there, the story of the film is not really the focus. The big thing this time around, which the other two films have almost none of, is character. I really, really liked the focus on characters in this film, and in particular the relationship between Ip and his wife. She was sort of just in the background in the others, but in this entry, she gets pushed to the forefront, and it adds a dramatic weight that the others lacked, and boy oh boy, did it hit me right in the feels.
That said, sure, there are some characters that are kind of just there for the sake of exposition, like Kent Cheng's character (though it was nice seeing 'Fatty' return), or there just to have a fight scene (Mike Tyson is this way for sure, and actually, an exposition character at that), but it works. You really get absorbed in this film, more so than before, and there are so many more character moments, and a nice level of realistic drama at hand. Mike Tyson, yes Mike Tyson, actually did decent with his acting. He has little moments, albeit brief, where you sort get to see who his character is. He isn't just the next 'foreign devil', and though his time is small, and probably for the better due to his acting limitations, the times Mike's on the screen, I was still engaged and not taken out of it whatsoever. That said, there are some things to complain about, but I will get to those later.
"For the last time, she doesn't want to smell your feet Jaa stunt double!"
Moving things on, there is another brief character I want to shout-out... and that is the one played by Bryan Leung a.k.a Beardy, a legend in the martial arts cinema community. He actually was in the film for more than two seconds, and again, he is another character that just sort of moves things forward, but he brought some great humor to the picture, including a moment with a table that nods to the 1st Ip film, that had me busting a gut. It's great moments like this mixed with the previously mentioned drama, that sets this entry apart from the rest of the series. I hadn't really cared about the characters as much as I had this time around, and I hadn't even really realized it until this go around, and I believe that's really made me rethink the entire franchise as a whole.
So, you want to know about the fights, right? I will just say Yuen Woo-ping hit it out of the park this time. I am a fan of the man's choreography, but I think he has kind of stumbled the last several years. Not this time around though; he took everything great Sammo Hung had done and built from there, putting a familiar yet fresh spin on it. You get your chain punches, and quite often, but it isn't the exact same feel as the 1st two. It does hark back to the 1st though, in terms of the more brutal nature of the fights. Faces are crushed, limbs are broken, and wave after wave of goons are dispatched of at the lightning speed we've all come to love and expect from the series. Donnie Yen is more beast than he ever has been, but also gets hit and flung around more this time around. You know he will win, as he sort of has to, but there are plenty of moments where you just go "Oh shit, c'mon Man!".
Everybody Wing Chun tonight!!!
Now on to a couple of things that bothered me, and pulling back towards the dramatic side of things. Donnie Yen is great in this film, but at the same time, he gets a very, very heave scene to perform, and I don't think he quite nailed it like I would've hoped. That said, he does knock it out of he park this time though, outside of that one brief moment, and he has far more restraint and subtlety than I've seen out of him in any film he's been in to date. He has some wonderful scenes with his wife (Lynn Hung), that I think I may have enjoyed even more than all of the fantastic fights in the film. I really was just so engaged, and never thought Ip Man would pull anymore emotion out of me than excitement, but I was wrong, and glad I was. If you want your feels hit a few times, then this will bring it to you. I can't praise Lynn's performance enough this time around. She just hasn't had much to do until this film, but here, she is great. They are both so 'good-nature people' that it's almost hard to believe. Truly the most precious moments of the film, are from within their arc together.
No jokes here.
Seriously beautiful what they did with their characters.
All in all, Ip Man 3 has instantly become my favorite of the 3. It's got heart, it's got badass fight scenes (and a lot of them), and most importantly, it has emotional weight and believable characters involved. Even Max Zhang's character is easily the best 'villain' of the entire trilogy, because he is believable and has real motivations behind his every action. It may not have the crazy setting of a country being taken hostage (i.e by Japan and Britain in the others), but instead focuses on a much smaller-knit, but nonetheless more intimately knit tale. If I don't stop myself now, I'll drag this on for days. Ip Man 3 is easily the best of the bunch to me, and I don't see it getting any better than this.
Written By Josh Parmer
Blu Ray Additional Comments:
When it comes to the best home releases for Asian cinema, it's hard to overlook Well Go USA as the leader in the market. They have always been on the forefront of purchasing the rights to a lot of entertaining modern Asian films (including the Ip Man franchise) and getting those the US release that fans desire. What makes their release of Ip Man 3 so nice is the inclusion of a solid- if not ultimately brief - set of bonus features. Interviews and behind the scenes footage are there for fans to enjoy and it's rather insightful in many ways. Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip give thoughtful commentary to their careers and how Ip Man 3 fits in, while Mike Tyson delivers the best part of the interviews: his explanation of the plot of Crippled Avengers. The film itself is presented nicely in high definition with a robust sound package, as expected, although it does not include the film in 3D which is something that I actually prefer considering how much I tend to dislike 3D altogether. Fans of the series or martial arts films will enjoy what this release has to offer, even if it tends to be brief. Special features can be expensive for smaller releases (and companies) so whatever we can get we will take. For Ip Man 3, it's a nice icing on the cake for an effectively entertaining and heartfelt film.
Written By Matt Reifschneider