Ip Man 3 is the final film of the acclaimed Ip Man trilogy and possibly Donnie Yen’s final martial arts movie. Also in the film are Lynn Hung, Jin Zhang and Mike Tyson. For this film we follow Master Ip as he defends his neighborhood from the hands of a foreign developer.

First thing I’d like to get out of the way, if you are expecting a lot of Bruce Lee material in this movie you will be disappointed. It shouldn’t be a shock though, this isn’t a Bruce Lee movie. They do provide some bits that Bruce Lee fans will get such as Bruce being a skilled dancer.

If you’re looking for a collection of good fight scenes then you’ll find them here. The choreography is solid without too much reliance on wire work. One of the points of praise I’ve had for most fights in the Ip Man trilogy is the camera work. A lot of modern action films rely on quick cuts and shaky cam to hide the imperfections and lack of skill. There are very few shots in any of these films that are designed to hide the action. The speed of the actors is primarily the way to show action but they did a great job of making sure that even with such quick movements, everything is readable.

The hidden meaning

Usually martial arts films have simple plots because they are selling the action more than anything else. By that standard, Ip Man 3 does exactly that if that’s as far as you look. In that context I felt the fights were a little stale and aside from the Frank fight, Ip Man never seemed to be in danger. Even without knowing the historical context of the film, Ip Man was just that good and no one really challenged him. Not even the gang of 50 guys. Removing the danger of the fight, the possibility of defeat, it cheapens the battle. In the same way it wouldn’t be that interesting if Superman fought Jason David Frank.

After the Frank fight it dawned on me that they weren’t trying to push the combat narrative. Sure the fights were very well done but we knew Ip Man was going to be okay. So where was the suspense, the true battle? What may he have lost? Eventually we realize that the battle was with himself. He had to force himself away from the spotlight and adoration to focus on his personal life. Something that he seems to have neglected leading up to the film. It really puts into focus that even those teaching compassion and caring for others, sometimes we end up sacrificing those close to us without even noticing.

This theme is helped along by illustrating that Ip Man is struggling with his personal life even though so many on the outside adore him. On the flip side, Sum Nung works hard for little recognition yet maintains a strong relationship with his immediate family (his son). It’s a classic tale of near identical paths leading to opposite results, which ultimately sets up the final conflict.

A lesson in marketing and promotion

Everywhere you look the marketing material for Ip Man 3 really pushes the plot as Ip Man fighting a property developer and his gang. When you watch the film it starts off exactly like that and proceeds at a good pace. The content you see always seems to be setting up the next part of this narrative. It’s really well done in this respect. The problem comes when the final fight with Frank (Mike Tyson) comes just a little after the half way point.

The lead up is well done. The fight is well done. The conclusion of the fight is well done. I think it was probably the most complete fight in the whole movie but after it’s done there is still 30-40 minutes left of the film. With how it all works out it seems like everything after that is kind of muted. The pacing slows some and the movie feels more relaxed. The narrative is definitely winding down and you feel like the credits will be rolling any moment. Then they don’t. There’s a whole second part of the film that seems to be overlooked in the promotional material.

I personally liked the second tale (that’s what I’m gonna call it). It was calmer and showed more of the Ip Man character rather than trying to showcase his fighting skills. I can see the why in the oversight in marketing, this is a martial arts film primarily and dancing or reading a book don’t always play well with the intended audience. I just think they would’ve done better to have a larger build up in the second tale that led to the fight with Sum Nung.

The Quick and Dirty Verdict

“Definitely worth the watch, might even get you throwing air punches.”

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