I remember seeing either Ip Man 1 or 2 on TV while out at lunch one day, and I thought to myself, man, this movie sucks. Yeah, the fight scenes are pretty good, but it was pretty much Team China vs nasty, evil, big-nosed white people who can’t act.
Apparently, I’m in the minority, because everyone seems to love the Ip Man movies, which explains why they made Ip Man 3, AND managed to get Mike Tyson to go up against Donnie Yen for an epic showdown.
So is Ip Man 3 actually any good? Yes and no. Again, I came away thinking the film was a little tacky. It has a very simple plot with a righteous protagonist who might as well be Asian Jesus because all he can do is good. And of course, the film milks the fact that Bruce Lee was Ip Man’s student for the third time in three movies. So if you’re looking for high quality storytelling and drama, you’re not going to get it here.
Having said that, Donnie Yen is actually a much better actor than people give him credit for, and he makes Ip Man likable despite the obvious contrivances written into the film to make him too good to be true. I get that he’s a great martial artist and Wing Chun master, but they make him basically unbeatable, so the vulnerability never feels real. Plus I really don’t see the need to make him an all-round super bloke on top of that, a fantastic husband and father who also happens to be super wise. It makes him a little boring.
And then there are the fight scenes. They are absolutely superb, proving that Yen is not only one of the greatest martial artists alive today, he’s also one of the best fight choreographers there has ever been. Whether it’s solo training or hand-to-hand combat or fighting with weapons, Yen makes sure it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Quick cuts are cut to a minimum, and the controlled pace and flow create a breathtaking experience.
The Tyson fight scene does not disappoint. The set-up is silly and almost laughable, but when they start going toe-to-toe it becomes a majestic chess match of grace against power. Tyson shows off some of the moves that once made him the “baddest man alive”, while Yen does a great job in showing off the contrasting styles between the two fighters.
So while Ip Man 3 is still marred by problems commonly seen in Asian martial arts movies, there’s no denying that the film can be exciting and a pure pleasure to watch at times. On a pure spectacle and popcorn entertainment level, the movie delivers in spades. In my opinion it is worth sitting through all the other stuff just for the action scenes alone.
3.25 stars out of 5