Thursday, 24 December 2015
Ip Man 3 (5 Stars)
I've been waiting to see this film for a long time. It must be at least six months since I first heard about it. Donnie Yen had been persuaded to make a third Ip Man film, despite his long resistance. He felt that he was too old to do the role justice, and he thought that "Ip Man 2" was so perfect that it shouldn't be spoilt by an inferior sequel.
The film was surrounded by controversy. It was announced that Bruce Lee would appear in the film as a CGI-generated character. This made fans groan, despite assurances that he would look completely genuine in the film, not like a cartoon character. The director Wilson Yip backed down at the last minute, and Bruce Lee was played by the actor Danny Chan who had already portrayed Bruce Lee in the TV series "The Legend of Bruce Lee".
Then the film was pushed into the cinemas so fast that I almost missed it. The official release date was set at January 16th, 2016, but my regular cinema, Cineworld, decided to screen it for two days only, on December 24th and 25th, 2015. Those are probably the worst possible dates for cinema screenings, but it wasn't a problem for someone like me who doesn't celebrate Christmas. I went to see it today.
Has Donnie Yen lost his magic at the age of 52? Is he past it? Based on the evidence of "Ip Man 3" the answer is a resounding No. He shows the same speed and agility as in the first two films. He's much more convincing as Ip Man than Tony Leung in "Grandmaster", which only has value as a stylishly beautiful film, not as a martial arts epic, because Tony Leung moves like a ballet dancer rather than a fighter.
The tone of "Ip Man 3" is more subdued and less xenophobic than the first two films. The first film was very anti-Japanese, and the second film very anti-English. It's true, "Ip Man 3" does talk about the foreign devils, which refers primarily to the English rulers, but it's not forced on the viewer to the same extent. I'm not sure about the nationality of Mike Tyson in the film. Yes, I know he's an American, but his character Frank might be supposed to be English. It's not so obvious.
In the film Frank is a property developer. He also makes money from people gambling on fights in his clubs. He's purchased all the buildings in an area he wants except for a school. Frank sends his thugs to put pressure on the headmaster to sell, but he doesn't reckon with the interference of Ip Man, whose son visits this school.
There are various sub-plots. The main one is the rivalry of another Wing Chun master called Cheung, whose loyalties are divided. His son also visits the same school, but he's a poor rickshaw puller who makes extra money by fighting in Frank's contests. He feels the need to prove to everyone, especially to his son, that he is the best Wing Chun fighter. Another sub-plot is the failing health of Ip Man's wife. And then there's Bruce Lee.
If anything, I was disappointed by the limited screen time of Bruce Lee. We never actually see him fight, even though Danny Chan is a skilled martial artist in his own right. We only see Bruce Lee teaching Ip Man how to dance in return for becoming his pupil. That's touching in its own way, but I would like to have seen him throw a few punches.
Even though this is the least historically accurate of all three Ip Man films, it's highly enjoyable. The martial arts battles are stunning, and the emotional episodes are moving. This is the best film I've seen in the cinema all year. I just regret that it's being shown on such ridiculous dates that most people will miss it.