Action star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip are back with the third -- and last? -- installment of their Ip Man series which began with Ip Man in 2008 which was followd by Ip Man 2 in 2010. The Wing Chun master was also the subject of two films by Herman Yau, The Legend is Born: Ip Man (also 2010) and Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013) and of Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster (also 2013).
Beginning in Hong Kong in 1959, the film finds Ip Man facing two opponents. One is Frankie, a ruthless real estate developer played by Mike Tyson (! More on that later.) He sends his minions to "convince" the principle of the school that Ah Ching, Ip Man's younger son, attends to sell him the property. Led by Ma King Sang (Patrick Tam) they use any and all means to achieve their assignment, including beatings, setting fires and kidnapping children. As a result Ip Man and his students guard the school.
Ip Man's other opponent is Cheung Tin-chi (Zhang Jin), a rickshaw driver whose son also attends Ah Ching's school. Cheung is also an expert in Wing Chun. If I understand the genealogy correctly, his teacher and Ip Man's teacher both studied with the same master. Because of differences in the Wing Chun of their two teachers, Cheung is convinced that his is the true, and therefore superior, Wing Chun as compared with Ip Man/s
There are plenty of fine action scenes, which is what one would expect with Yuen Woo-Ping serving as action director and Donnie Yen and Yuen Shun-Yee serving as action choreographers. We're talking multiple fight scenes of both the one-against-many and one-on-one variety. There is staff fighting, knife fighting and unarmed combat.
So action aficionados need not worry; there's plenty here to keep you happy.
On the other hand, there were several things about the film that didn't work for me. First off, I found Mike Tyson's presence (billed in the credits as a "Special Appearance") a cheap gimmick that suggests how bereft of ideas the filmmakers were. We're talking about the ludicrousness of a black man with a huge facial tattoo as a ruthless real estate developer and promoter of an illegal fight ring in Hong Kong in 1959. Not even his being protected by the other "foreign devils" (i.e., the British) can make this remotely believable.
The second problem is with the two main fights, the first with Ip Man against Tyson, the second with him against Cheung, both end in what I consider a lame and unsatisfying manner, as if the film was promoting political correctness, or maybe that should be "kung-fu correctness."
Lastly, the film does a real number in putting down Bruce Lee. This is not the first time this has happened in a recent Ip Man movie (see Herman Yau's Ip Man: The Final Fight), but it's pretty harsh here. Fortunately Bruce is slightly redeemed by his teaching Ip Man how to dance so he can please his wife, Cheung Wing Sing, again played by actress Lynn Hung.
If it's action you're after, Ip Man 3 will totally satisfy you. Just don't expect to learn much about the real Ip Man.
AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars for the action, 2 out of 4 for story.
Ip Man 3 opens tomorrow, Friday, January 22nd. For information about the cities and theaters where it will open on the 22nd and in its subsequent wider roll-out, go to the Ip Man 3 Official Website.