Tag Archives: martial arts

Ip Man 3 (2015)

ip man 3

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

Movie Review: Ninja Assassin (2009)

Ninja Assassin is a movie likely to polarise viewers.  On the one hand, you have the anime generation numb to the gory violence cheering on every move of the spectacular ninja Raizo (played by Korean actor/popstar Rain).  On the other, there will be those outraged by the excessive blood and carnage, wondering how a movie like this ever got made.

Personally, I didn’t mind all that ridiculous gore.  They are ninja assassins!  That’s what happens when sharp weapons make contact with human bodies!  I did get a nasty visceral shock at the beginning, especially during the opening sequence, but by the end I was starting to get used to it.  It’s actually no worse than films like Saw and Hostel.

So Ninja Assassin had a cool, manga-esque concept.  Young kids kidnapped by some clandestine clan and trained to become super weapon-wielding, kung-fu assassins who kill people in the goriest ways imaginable.  The ninjas move in and out of the shadows like ghosts and no one can touch them.  They are every nerdy kid’s wet dream.

The fight scenes are pretty amazing.  They all looked like they knew what they were doing, and each sequence was wonderfully choreographed and executed.  Knowing a little about Rain (who was previously seen by American audiences in Speed Racer) before the movie, I was impressed by his drastic improvement in English as well as his astounding physical transformation.  I read elsewhere that Rain trained so hard for this film that he vomited after training almost every day.

Rain Ninja Assassin
Korean star Rain may have worked out a little for his role as Raizo

Now that we’ve gotten the positives out of the way, allow me to rip into the rest of Ninja Assassin.  The director, Australian James McTeigue, wasn’t really the problem.  He had previously directed V for Vendetta, so it’s obvious the man has some skill and ability.

The biggest issue I had with the film was the fact that everything else about it, apart from the fight scenes, felt hopelessly amateurish.  It would have been almost better had there been no plot at all.  Raizo is just this killing machine who harbours resentment against his old clan and for some reason decides to save a Europol agent played by Naomie Harris.  These two never click, and its painful watching them try.  The rest of the characters are better ignored, and apart from that, there’s really not much left of the film.

If Ninja Assassins was slightly more credible apart from the fight scenes, it could have had the potential to be a cult classic.  All it needed was a proper plot, more interesting characters and subplots worth caring about.  It didn’t need to be convincing — just more intriguing.  Unfortunately, however, I feel it was ultimately a waste of a promising opportunity.

2 stars out of 5!