Ip Man 3 Review
Ip Man 3 is the third collaboration between Donnie Yen (Seven Swords) and director Wilson Yip (Flashpoint) around the famous Wing Chun master whose life has, since 2008’s Ip Man, ignited the imagination of directors: Yip firstly but also Herman Yau (The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, Ip Man: The Final Fight), Wong Kar-Wai (The Grandmaster) and Fan Xiaotian (the Ip Man TV series). The character is a godsend for every producer, director or actor as it gathers all the elements propitious to success: charismatic heroes and villains, historical settings, impressively choreographed action scenes, references to a character beloved in the whole world, Bruce Lee, who was Ip Man’s most famous disciple.
In this third movie, Ip Man is confronted to a brutal band of gangsters led by crooked property developer Frank (Mike Tyson, The Hangover) who plans to take over the city.
Unsurprisingly, Ip Man 3 remains faithful to the successful formula instigated by the first movie which relies on confronting the master to the difficulties of adapting to the various events shaping the evolution of Hong Kong (the Japanese occupation in the first one, the proliferation of martial arts schools in the second one and crooked property developments in this one) and strong adversaries threatening his or his family and friends’ life.
The movie also remains faithful to the series in providing a fantastic opportunity for Yen to combine his fighting skills, already familiar to international audiences, with his acting skills in an attempt to reach an even wider international audience (this strategy seems to have paid as after a series of aborted attempts at the beginning of the 00s with movies like Highlander: Endgame, Blade II or Shanghai Knights, Yen will finally appear in a massive American super-production which will ensure his recognition with future cinema audiences: the Star Wars spin-off Rogue one: A Star Wars Story).
In this context, it is difficult to envisage Ip Man 3 as anything more than an opportunistic way for Yen (who stated after the second movie that he would not work on any Ip Man related film…) and his director to come back to a franchise which has brought them undeniable success both in China and in the rest of the world (especially Yip who didn’t get much recognition since Ip Man 2 with a series of fairly average movies: Sien nui yau wan, Magic To Win and Triumph in the Skies). This impression is reinforced by a ludicrous opening scene rehashing the link between Ip Man and Bruce Lee and the casting of Tyson whose disastrous acting skills regularly threaten to sink the whole movie during its first half.
However, Ip Man 3 is miraculously saved thanks to the combined talents of Yen and action choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping (Once Upon a Time in China) who manage to create from the ashes of Tyson’s disastrous acting skills a very impressive fight scene between Frank and Ip Man, justifying at the same time the casting of Tyson.
The movie is also regularly rescued by its real asset, Jin Zhang, in the role Cheung Tin-Chi, the young father who competes with Ip Man about the authenticity of his Wing Chun. After The Grandmaster and SPL II: A Time for Consequences, the former Wu-shu athlete demonstrate once again the wide range of its talents and steals the movie by infusing each of his apparitions with an incredible amount of magnetic charisma.
Finally, Ip Man 3 benefits from a touching turn to the story which manages in-extremis to bring a satisfying conclusion to the saga whist showing Ip Man under a different light.
The first two Ip Man movies had been successfully distributed by the now defunct label Cine Asia with great results. Ip Man 3 is released on DVD, blu-ray and boxset containing the trilogy on 25th April by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment. I don’t know if the first two movies of the boxset will be similar to the previously released editions but if Ip Man 3 clearly delivers in terms of picture and sound quality, the extras are unfortunately desperately promotional.
The movie is presented on blu-ray in a virtually perfect 1080p transfer respecting its original ratio of 2.35:1. The definition of the image is sharp and allows appreciating details both in large and close-ups shots which is particularly nice in this type of period movies. The colours are beautifully rendered but do not expect an explosion of vivid colours as, similarly to the previous movies of the trilogy, Yip and his new director of photography Kenny Tse (The Stool Pigeon) have chosen to emphasise on beige and grey tints. Finally, I didn’t notice any stability issues or compression anomalies.
On the audio side, the disc offers four tracks: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 LPCM, Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Cantonese 2.0 LPCM. From what I could hear with my installation, all tracks were very clear with no apparent defects and they all offered a good balance between music, dialogues and sound effects. The disc also offers optional English subtitles which is particularly useful is you understand Cantonese.
The selection of bonus includes the following:
Behind the scenes (2 min)
This a very short musical featurette focusing on the shooting of the fight scene between Ip Man and Tyson’s character Frank in which we get a glimpse of Yen’s concentration, Woo-Ping’s choreographic preparation and Tyson’s Mao Zedong tattoo!. Yip is also shown discussing behind the combo with Yen and Woo-Ping.
Donnie Yen (7 min): the actor explains, in English, what motivated him to do the third movie (referring to Ip Man as I.P. Man like “they do in the West”??), who is Ip Man (via another reference to Bruce Lee…), what his favourite martial art movie is (basically his), what his feeling is on the US cult status of the movie, what Woo-Ping brings to the third movie which is different from the two other movies (the first two were choreographed by Sammo Hung (SPL), what motivated him to play the role of Ip Man, working with Tyson and who would play Donnie Yen in a movie.
Mike Tyson (8 min): the former boxer discusses his role in Ip Man 3, what decided him to do it, his experience working in China, who his Ip Man is, his favourite martial art movie and his involvement in his action scenes.
Making of Ip Man 3
This short making of is divided in two parts: the action (3 min) and the story (2 min). The first one, whilst mentioning the Tyson fight, rightly emphasises on the importance of the Wing Chun fight between Ip Man and Cheung Tin-Chi. The latter also gives the brief opportunity to hear Yip and Lynn Hung.
The last bonus is the international trailer.