Screener Review: IP MAN 3 (2016)

The past year or so has been quite a journey in observing the various headlines surrounding the production of director Wilson Yip's newest film, Ip Man 3, along with my own. Going into this movie, it was very refreshing to see action star Donnie Yen back in the role that has done him so well for nearly eight years, and especially to see him reunite with someone like Yuen Woo-Ping who helped punt his career more than thirty years ago.

That said, an Ip Man film is not something you go into lightly. Yes, I say this even as the franchise, at current, blurs the line between fact and fiction here and there, so as to present the once living Wing Chun master in almost folkloric fashion. Things like that haven't sat well with a handful of fans who are more keen on a cerebral, existential approach to Man's historical legacy as opposed to his legendary one and that's understandable.

Perhaps that's a different kind of film, one which may be better left for someone with something different in mind. And that's okay. However, I wouldn't undercut these films right away unless I knew if whether or not they sat right with me. With this in mind, the task of erecting Ip Man's life into a cinematic feat is one that involves a formula to produce something that is as equally emotive in impact as is the action with respect to the collaborative process.

Here, knowing that the Ip Man trilogy pretty much has the blessing of the late grandmaster's living family is very reasurring on top of the quality a director like Yip brings to the table. Films like SPL, Flash Point and Dragon Tiger Gate are all exemplary of just the kind of stellar filmmaker Yip is with the right actor in mind, and their fourth get-together in 2008 for Ip Man and its 2010 sequel are no exceptions.

And here we are with Ip Man 3, a film replete with fresheness and new characters for a story that adds more layers to Yip's telling of the grandmaster's life. You have Ip Man, played by Yen, back in the fray and settled in the bustling 1950's of Hong Kong with his wife, Wing Sing, played by Lynn Hung. Here, their marriage continues to feel the strain and pressure of Ip's publicity as a martial arts celebrity despite his humility and stoic nature as a low-key individual in the face of fans and fight-hungry foes alike.

We meet actor Patrick Tam who plays Ma King-sing, a local triad leader working for property developer and business man, Frank, who is as gentle as he a brute when need be. Theirs is a seedy underworld where they stop at nothing to get what they want, until they reach an empass with the martial locals, including Ip Man himself along with Master Tin played by action legend Bryan Leung, and ultimately, Cheung Tin Chi, performed accordingly by Max Zhang. This conflict is one that erupts at a time when Ip's life is in need of closer attention, thus drawing a narrative that focuses on the more important things in life, and all in story that ultimately determines Ip's place in the martial world and in life.

Despite anyone's criticisms, the Ip Man films have progressed very well, and with great direction. Save for a few supporting roles that come and go and don't really have time to flourish, viewers do get a few fleeting moments with actor Danny Chan as Bruce Lee, with supple support from Leung and actor Kent Cheng. At the end of the day though, it's actress Hung who steals the show as the driving force for the overall plot by the second half, and not for nothing either if you notice her character's evolution throughout all three films. 

Really, this probably has you thinking that Ip Man 3 is the only film that offers you a truly tender moment between our male and female leads. I leave that to you to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing, and the same goes for Raymond Wong's script who apparently feels it necessary to mix and mingle English dialogue with Cantonese even as the barrier is left standing.

Former heavyweight champion-turned-actor Mike Tyson gets a role that we rarely see him in, and it's an acquired taste if I may say so myself. Depending on who you are, this probably doesn't hugely affect what you might expect of him as an actor; Mainly, you already know he's there because of the fan fervor and Yen himself recognized the opportunity to connect and work together after the past few years. For this, we get a fight scene that isn't too welcoming but not boring either. It's also a bit of a nostagia trigger since this makes the second time Yip gives us a Western boxing character which makes you wonder if Ip has changed his strategy any, and it's fun to analyze.

With actor Max Zhang in full command following performances in The Grandmaster and SPL 2, writer Wong's script brilliantly gives us a character that isn't too morally bankrupt, but equally ambitious as he is dangerous. It's a key character arc that sets up the martial arts narrative righteously with master Yuen's direction, and just a few key fight sequences with choreography that is second to none with a final shot that is the work of pure, martial arts poetry.

Bearing all these in mind and more, Yip's biggest strength lies in his continuity with respect to the action sequences. We get a protagonist who longs for the simple life away from violence whilst serving as a purveyor and instructor of physical and mental health, but will otherwise resort to restrained disciplinary action when needed, opposite any style, whether it's other forms of Chinese kung fu, Western boxing, or even a sudden encounter of impromptu Muay Thai with Simon Kuke demolishing the inside of an elevator. It perfectly embodies Yen's persona here as Ip Man in iconic fashion which further grants us a hero worth cheering for, no matter how badly he'll refrain from it.

This is, really, the beauty we get from a Yip/Yen pairing on an Ip Man movie. Some may not agree with their storytelling methods, but rest assured - they have brought the legacy of an iconic martial arts legend to life on screen in the only way they could and as other filmmakers have and would.

Fans may judge for themselves, and in that respect, the results speak accordingly. Ip Man 3 delivers a solid hit filled with emotive resonance, amazing fight action, gripping performances and principal characters who are just enough shades of grey to keep you grounded in a world you can identify with, even if it is a half-century old and you don't speak Chinese.

Ip Man 3 opens on January 22, 2016. Check your local listings, and click here to learn how you can win an IP MAN PRIZE PACK!


  1. Can't wait anymore!! I'm really keen on watching this. Sadly, I live in Spain and I will have to wait a bit more... Regards and keep in that way, dude!

    1. I hate that it takes so long for films to reach certain areas of the world. I hope folks in Spain who can make things happen are listening to you guys :-)

  2. The best scene was when Donnie is fighting Tyson. Both are good. Difference fighting skills. I think is a win win match.


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