PLOT: Master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) – trying to live a quiet live with his wife and son in 1959 Hong Kong – is drawn into a Triad land scheme run by a nefarious westerner (Mike Tyson). Meanwhile, he has to contend with a skilled rival (Zhang Jin) who challenges him to a public fight.
REVIEW: In the five years since IP MAN 2 hit theaters, there’s been a steady supply of rival Ip Man biopics flooding the market. For those not in the know, Ip Man was the Wing Chun grandmaster who famously taught Bruce Lee. Of the rival films, Wong Kar Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER was the most notable, but several other IP MAN clones did big business in China, including two by director Herman Yau – THE LEGEND IS BORN – IP MAN and IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT. None of them really held a candle to the Donnie Yen films and it’s nice to see the series get capped off by one final installment.
Director Wilson Yip is back in this lavish entry, which is getting a 3D release in China. While still featuring star Donnie Yen in good fighting form, IP MAN 3 does pale in comparison to the insanity of the first two films. It lacks the frenzied fighting or the sense of fun both previous installments had, abandoning the classic kung-fu movie plot for a more serious approach that doesn’t always work.
It’s certainly a more episodic outing, with Ip Man’s battle against local gangsters looking to close down his son’s school coming to a resolution about halfway through the film. It’s here that we get the centerpiece battle royale between Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson, and while the result is impressive it pales alongside other big mano-a-mano brawls Yen’s been a part of in his movies. Tyson does seem to be having fun playing an eccentric gangster, although watching Iron Mike speak dubbed Cantonese is a little too goofy – even for an action romp.
Most of the film’s second half centers around Ip Man’s relationship with his terminally ill wife (Lynn Hung) which leads to him neglecting his school and losing his position as Grandmaster to a young upstart. This rival is played by the impressive Zhang Jin, in a follow-up to his show-stealing turn as a bad guy in SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES. The final battle between Zhang and Yen in by far the best part of the movie, with them starting out with an array of traditional weapons before moving on to bare fists. Still, being a more-or-less friendly fight it loses the urgency and edge of similar showdowns in other, better Donnie Yen vehicles.
While still a very decent martial arts flick, I can’t deny that of the three IP MAN movies, the third installment comes off the worst, despite having the biggest budget and the most resources poured into it. Yen and Yip seem somewhat sick of the character, as if they’re eager to move on to other things. While still worth watching for the fights, it’s clear this series has run its course.