Movie Review: ‘IP MAN 3’ – January’s New Hope

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

IP MAN 3 | 105 min | PG-13
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Lynn HungJin Zhang and Mike Tyson

Master Ip Man is primarily known as someone who a) made a style of martial arts known as Wing Chun popular, and b) the man who trained action/martial arts icon Bruce Lee. Since 2008, China has taken his legend to new heights by producing films centered on Master Ip and converting them into fables/folk legend. The IP MAN films are always something to behold, as they mix heart, triumph, humility, and great action into its narrative.

The protagonist of Ip Man is played by Chinese action star Donnie Yen, who has catapulted himself next to other greats such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan. He plays Master Ip with grace, hardly ever giving him a look of worry. This real-life person is always put into a story that is served by the backdrop of Chinese history. In IP MAN, he defended his village against the Japanese soldiers during WWII; IP MAN 2 saw Master Ip defend the honor and heritage of martial arts against the British as they occupied Hong Kong.

In this latest installment, IP MAN 3, we see that his legend has ever grown. The city of Hong Kong reveres him, and all the local schools of martial arts treat him as the leader of their institutions. This time, he has to deal with local thugs trying to buy out his son’s school for the land, as well as another Wing Chun master, Cheung Tin-chi (Max Zhang), trying to make a name for himself. Dealing with these battles, he does not see that his wife, Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Xiong), is dealing with her own battle against cancer.

Courtesy of Pegasus Motion Pictures.

Courtesy of Pegasus Motion Pictures.

The entry of this last conflict is something new for the IP MAN saga. All films deal with the element of history, grounding the films as he fights outsiders and challenges from other martial artists. However, the introduction of something as serious as cancer gives IP MAN 3 a harsh dose of reality; the real Ip Man’s wife actually did have cancer. Also, his son actually becomes involved in the danger, as he is kidnapped at one point.

While these elements are a nice backdrop, the real reason to watch these movies are its action set pieces, choreographed by legend Yuen Wo Ping; IP MAN 3 is no exception. It includes the recurring fight of one-on-ten, made famous by the first IP MAN (look up various lists of best fight scenes and it will be on there). The best action though is the scene in the steelyard, which has Ip Man going after his son’s kidnappers, as well as the final showdown between the two Wing Chun masters.

The narrative is a little bit lackadaisical as the movie goes on. First of all, Ip Man had two kids after the second installment, but now has one. Secondly, we have the American bad guy (MIKE TYSON!) that kind of fizzles out of the picture. Not only that, but he also works with the British, who are also corrupt. This leads to my final misstep, that any American/Brits are known as “foreign devils”, which tows the line of implementation of Chinese propaganda. But, it’s their culture, so this terminology is to be taken with a grain of salt.

All-in-all, IP MAN 3 is another fine chapter in, not only its own franchise, but the martial arts movies as well. The cinematography of Tse Chung To has depth and uses sweeping motions to keep in line with the action. Furthermore, they tease even further the incumbent narrative of him training Bruce Lee, as he makes an appearance in this film. For those that like kung fu films, this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

IP MAN 3 opens in select theaters this week. IP MAN and IP MAN 2 are available on Netflix.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.