Ip Man 3, the latest entry in the martial arts action series, lives up to the expectations of the series, providing excellent fight scenes and capitalizing on the “gimmick” casting. The movie practically sells itself with one scene: Ip Man fights Mike Tyson. The fights are again top notch, and although the film has its emotional peaks, as a whole the plot is wildly uneven, and feels like two shorter movies cobbled together.
For the first half of the film, the grandmaster Ip Man must defend his son’s school from thugs who are trying to shake the principal into selling it. The plot is cliche and generic, and abruptly ends halfway through without total closure. Although the sudden shift in the plot is strange, it’s not necessarily bad. The second half of the film is more focused on personal drama, as Ip Man’s wife battles cancer, and his friend takes the title of grandmaster from him.
Donnie Yen is once again excellent, playing the title character for the third and most likely final time. Yen is able to dominate the fight scenes with his cool and calm presence, but also succeeds in the dramatic scenes where he speaks to his wife. The relationship between Ip and his wife, portrayed by Lynn Hung in a strong performance, is sneakily the centerpiece of the film that ties to two distinct halves in two.
But as always, the heart of Ip Man 3 is the action. The action is bit more subdued than the other fight scenes, but still has excellent choreography and camerawork. Although the Mike Tyson fight scene delivers, it’s not even the best in the film: That distinction goes either a complex fight scene where fighters climb scaffolding in a warehouse, or the “grand finale” between two Wing Chun masters.
Although the plot of the third Ip Man is quite uneven, and the drama can fall flat at points, it’s a solid martial arts film with strong characters and Grade-A action. The film also balances its heart and drama with a good dose of humor, both in the characters and with some over-the-top action. Ip Man 3 is a solid, yet predictable, swan song for the Yen-led Ip Man series.
On Digital HD 4/5 and BD & DVD 4/19.