When a band of brutal gangsters led by a crooked property developer make a play to take over the city, Master Ip is forced to take a stand.
Donnie Yen is not just an amazing martial artist, he is also a very likable and charismatic movie star. That goes a long way when you’re dealing with a character who, at times, must fight and defend not just his own honor but those around him, family, friends, neighbors. The previous two “IP Man” movies were enjoyable and full of terrific martial arts but I have to admit, “IP Man 3” has to be my favorite of the three. It is exquisitely shot and beautifully choreographed and the film doesn’t just show us the majesty and dignity that accompanies the Wing Chun Chinese martial art form of self-defense, it also delves into IP Man’s personal life and allows us to see his weaknesses in conjunction with his strengths, something not seen very much in Asian martial arts movies.
The story is set in 1959 where IP Man (Donnie Yen) is settling down into a new life in Hong Kong. His neighbors know that he is the Wing Chun grandmaster and he is respected by all. His young son Ip Ching (Yan Shi Wang) attends a local school and one day when IP Man is picking him up, he witnesses some thugs trying to force the headmaster to sell the school, which is deemed prime real estate, to a local American crime lord named Frank (Mike Tyson). When the headmaster refuses, they begin to tear the place up but IP Man intercepts and thwarts their plans. They leave, battered and bruised, vowing revenge.
IP Man’s friend and local cop nicknamed Fatso (Kent Cheng), begins an investigation but is quickly taken off the case by his superiors. When he informs IP Man of this, claiming that his boss is obviously in Frank’s pocket, it is up to IP Man and some locals to stay at the school, day and night, to make sure that Frank’s guys can’t enter the building. A neighbor, Cheung Tin-chi (Zhang Jin), is also a fighter who utilizes the Wing Chun technique and feels that he is better than IP Man and lays down a challenge to fight him but with IP Man’s wife, Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Hung), terminally ill, he ignores the outside world so he can spend as much time with his dying wife.
Soon thereafter though, when Frank’s thugs burn part of the school and kidnap IP Man and Cheung Tin-chi’s sons, both men must put their differences aside and unite if they are to retrieve their children. After a jaw-dropping fight between both men and their foes, Fatso and his team of police officers intervene and arrest the thugs and knowing that the situation is only going to escalate, IP Man makes his way directly to Frank, a tall and burly imposing street fighter, where they will battle each other one-on-one, martial arts versus boxing, east versus west.
While the fight between Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson is magnificently choreographed, as an opponent, Tyson is initially a strange choice for an Asian movie but he proves, beyond a doubt, to be a striking and dominating adversary, bolstered by fierce and destructive power behind every punch. Regrettably though, as soon as he opens his mouth, all of that seems to dissipate. While Mr. Tyson is very soft-spoken and speaks with a lisp, these elements go against his onscreen persona and everything he represents. Granted, if the producers had employed an actor with a deep voice to dub Mr. Tyson, it might have helped a little but I doubt it would have made too much of a difference because at the end of the day, he is simply not an actor. Even a couple of lines of dialogue exchanged between his wife and child, seem somewhat forced and awkward. For a movie of this ilk however, the majority of fans will be going to see the fighting and in that regard, the movie delivers.
The sub-plot that involves IP Man’s dying wife, is elegantly realized and its most outstanding accomplishment lies in its ability to find the right balance of humor and sadness, something we have all had to experience at some point in our lives. At a time and in a culture where men were considered weak if they showed any kind of emotion, Donnie Yen portrays these characteristics with great aplomb, utilizing a simple gesture or glance. “IP Man 3” encompasses everything you could want from a movie; action, martial arts, humor, and most notably, the importance of family because without that, you have nothing.
In theaters January 22nd
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