Ip Man 3, directed by Wilson Yip, is another solid entry in the Ip Man franchise. Back again is the flawless fight choreography that has made the films so famous and so loved. But Ip Man 3 finally offers up something that has been missing from the previous films and that is a meaningful exploration of the relationship between Ip man and his wife, Cheung Wing-sing. As with all the Ip Man films, there are some missteps along the way, but there’s also something wholly endearing about it all. So let’s dive into Ip Man 3 and see how it shapes up.
The story in ‘Ip Man 3’ see Ip Man – played as always, by Donnie Yen – tackle a group of thugs who wish to take control of the school where his son attends, and utilise it for their nefarious means. But this plot is only a small portion of a film that takes the time to explore a more heartfelt story. Cheung Wing-sing (Ip Man’s wife) – played by Lynn Hung – has been diagnosed with cancer, and so Ip Man does what is right and removes his focus from Wing Chun and instead directs it towards his wife. But of course contenders who wish to be recognised as the true Wing Chun Grandmaster step-up, and it falls to Ip Man to put them in their place.
The interesting thing about Ip Man 3 is the two very distinctive plots that it runs with. The first one takes up the majority of act 1 and 2. This is also perhaps one of the weakest storylines that has occurred in any of the Ip Man films. Honestly the only reason I feel it exists is so that there is a reason to have Mike Tyson appear in the film (yes, that Mike Tyson). A thug and his men continually attack a school, because they want the location, so as to expand their nefarious business. From this comes a lot of great and expansive fight scenes, but not much else. It does set-up a character that becomes much more important later on in the film, but primarily it is a distraction in the overall film.
Like I said: it feels like it primarily exists because they needed a reason for Mike Tyson to exist in the film (give him something to do). Unsurprisingly, apart from a pretty decent fight scene between Tyson – who plays Frank in the film – and Ip Man, there isn’t much to be gained from this storyline.
Where something of worth comes along is mainly in the third act of the film; though it is set-up throughout the film. That is the storyline involving Ip Man’s sick wife. Something that I’ve always felt has been missing from the Ip Man films, is a proper exploration of the relationship between Ip Man and his wife. She doesn’t usually serve much purpose in the films and I always wish that she did. Ip Man 3 is where we finally get that, and it is done beautifully. When he is most needed, Ip Man pushes everything to the side and fully focuses on being attentive to his wife. The scenes between the two characters are filled with such subtle emotion, that you can’t help but be pulled in. It also then feeds into changing the dynamic of the final fight between Ip Man and Cheung Tin-chi – played by Jin Zhang – who seeks to be recognised as the Wing Chun Grandmaster. Though the fight between the two is exciting to watch, it is more about where Ip Man is mentally in that fight. His dying wife sits close by, listening, but not watching him fight Cheung Tin-chi. Instead of the fight being about him saving his town or restoring the honour of martial arts, it is instead not about the fight at all. It’s about him and his wife. There is more to it all than just fighting for gain, there is the love of the people who have always been there, supporting you; which is primarily what his wife has done; she has always been there and she has always supported him.
So while the first chunk of Ip Man 3 falls flat (in terms of the story) the poignancy of the latter half makes up for it all. People who watch the films solely for the fights will probably find this portion of the film a drag, but those who go in looking for the full package, will be really happy with what they get.
But I’m now of course going to pivot over to the element that largely drives these films and that is the fights: Ip Man 3 definitely delivers on them. As always, there are some standouts, ones that you’ll want to show your friends when you’re discussing great fight scenes in films. But something that I think Ip Man 3 did really well, was something that aided how good the fight scenes were: the use of vibrant colours. There are scenes in this film where the environment or the actors clothing just pops. More than ever; the way in which this film standouts is apparent. I was continually noticing sets that not only were expansive in their design, but also that helped highlight a fight with colour. The colour was sometimes used as a tool for the audience to understand where everything was, and other times it was simply to enhance the way in which everything looked. Either way, it added a little something to the final product that was just so pleasant.
The films fight scenes also boasts some great cinematography. There was one that stood out to be when Ip Man was fighting someone down a flight of stairs. There was one continuous overhead shot that kept the momentum of the scene going – while it also would cut in for close-ups on the big hits – and it all culminated in the most Ip Man of ways. Ip Man 3 more than shows that it had a budget to shoot some extensively complex fight scenes, and we’re all the winners because of it.
When I look back over the Ip Man trilogy I am certain in saying that the first Ip Man film is still my favourite. But when considering if I like 2 or 3 more, I’m unsure. I think another watch for both is needed, that way I can clearly discern the order in which I like the films. But that only matters for me I guess. What is important is that we have another very watchable Ip Man film.
I am more than happy to be recommending Ip Man 3. When I first saw that Mike Tyson was in the film, I had my doubts on the quality of the film. Thankfully the film offers up enough to still make this a fun film to watch; have at it.
What are your thoughts on the Ip Man series? What are your thoughts on this review? Please feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, then feel free to follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, it is really appreciated. Have a great week and I hope you enjoy some good cinema.