Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:47 pm 
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A quiet sequel, but with high speed fights

Ip Man 3, starring Donnie Yen with a novelty appearance by Mike Tyson, is a rather odd followup (if you see it that way) to Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai's aesthetically rich, technically complex epic of 2013. But referring more to Wilson Yip's 2008 and 2010 Ip Man 1 and 2,also starring Donnie Yen, this is a modest drama about two parents (one Ip Man) of small boys wishing to emulate their fathers' kung fu excellence who wind up defending their elementary school from invading Hong Kong gangsters who want to force the headmaster to sell the land. In premise it could be a Chinese after school special for kids. Besides that, there are several historically inaccurate details.

But despite a rather mediocre, low-keyed screenplay, some sterling raw materials have gone into the film, as did Yip's previous collaboration with Yen, notably providing a constant flow of technically exciting fight sequences. Again the focus, of course, is on the wing chun school of martial arts fighting. Excellent fight action, both low-key, wire-free, and spectacular in rapidity, is choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping. Yip has also enlisted Zhang Jin, the breakout star of Wong's Grandmaster. Here are many elements of the earlier Wilson Yip films. This also includes rival master-teachers of the wing chun school of kung fu, with racist Brits in the background, here allied with the black American boxing star. Yen again is a notably calm an decent man, his fighting skills contained and quietly impressive as well.

Zhang Jin plays Cheung Tin-chi, whose little boy gets into a fight with Yip Man's in elementary school at the film's outset. Zhang is a martial-arts expert fallen to being a rickshaw driver, working hard to restore his status by starting a martial arts school, with his little boy the first pupil, to establish himself as the leading wing chun teacher in competition with Ip Man, but winding up teaming up with Ip Man against the racist British policeman and his crooked American fighter ally. Lynn Xion is Ip Man's wife, who was pregnant in the second film, and now is faced with a serious illness.

While #3 satisfies with nice cinematography and fine action sequences, surely it's a disappointment that Ip Man's leading student, Bruce Lee (Chan Kwok-Kwon), is only seen in two brief scenes, and the expectation that the sequel to Ip Man 2 would be "the Bruce Lee years" has not been fulfilled. Owing to the popularity of the theme, "Ip Man-ia," there have been three other Ip Man films during the unfolding of the Wilson Yip, Donnie Yen collaboration, of which this may be the last, since Donnie Yen has announced he may retired from it. These other films are, besides Wong Kar-wai's Grandmaster, The Legend is Born — Ip Man and Ip Man — The Final Fight, both directed by Herman Yau.

Ip Man 3, 105 mins., which debuted theatrically in Hong Kong 16 Dec. 2015, enters US cinemas 22 Janu. 2016. It is a success in Chinese venues, having set a new record for the highest grossing Chinese movie in a single day in Singapore.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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