IP MAN 3 – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
IP Man 3 is the third in a series of films based upon Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man.  It is 1959 and Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is living a quiet life in Hong Kong.  He and his wife are raising their youngest son, Ip Ching, while he teaches his kung fu (the elder son, Ip Chun has returned to Foshan to study).  He is revered by the local students and his fellow instructors.
Perhaps the coolest scene in the film is when Bruce Lee (Kwok-Kwan Chan) comes to Ip Man’s school and asks to be trained.  Yes, THAT Bruce Lee.  The young man demonstrates his speed for the master.  Ip Man does not tell the young man yes or no, but that he should come back later.  Bruce takes this as a denial and is visibly upset as he leaves.
The parents are called to the local school when Ip Ching (Wang Yan Shi) and another boy, Cheung Fong (Can Cui), get into a fight over whose father is the better at his Kung Fu.  Ip and his wife, Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Hung) are called to the school to talk about the infraction.  Cheung Fong’s father is late.  He may be amazing at his kung fu but he can’t afford to start a school to teach his style. 
Ip and his wife bring Fong home to have dinner with them as an apology.  When they get to the apartment he sees the wooden practice dummy.  Ip allows the young man to show him his moves.  Fong looks pretty good.  His father has done a good job teaching him.  Shortly after finishing the meal, Cheung Tin-chi arrives to pick up his son.  Cheung Tin-chi (Jin Zhang) and his son leave the apartment and head for their home with the rickshaw the Cheung operates.
However, Cheung Tin-chi does not earn all of his money with the rickshaw.  He participates in underground martial arts contests run by local mobsters.  He is ambitious and is working to raise funds to open his own school.  He is good.  Good enough to come to the attention of the organizer (and local triad leader), Ma King-Sang (Patrick Tam) who passes him up to his boss, Frank (Mike Tyson). 
When Ip goes to the school the day following the fight to pick up his son, he finds men trying to coerce the headmaster into selling the property the school sits on.  They were trying to beat him into signing the sale papers.  Ip intervenes and is beating Ma when he is forced to stop because Ma’s men are holding the teacher Miss Wong (Karena Ng) at knifepoint.
When Ma escalates the attempt to take the school, Master Ip and his students begin protecting the building around the clock.  When Ma’s men attack the protectors, Ip’s people drive them off with the assistance of Cheung.
Ip goes to his friend on the police force, Fatso.  It doesn’t take long before Fatso’s boss on the force takes over the investigation into the attacks and effectively squashes it.  If that isn’t bad enough, Ip’s wife is not handling the fact that her husband is gone all of the time.  She has also found out that she is very ill but can’t find the right time to tell him.
This attack makes Tin Ngo-san angry.  Ma was one of his former students.  He confronts ma at the boat factory where he spends his days.  Only Master Ip’s arrival saves him from being harmed by Ma’s “associates”.  In retaliation, Ma hires Cheung to beat master Tin within inches of his life.  It gives the man enough to open his school.
Using master Tin’s injuries as an excuse, Ip is lured away from the school.  While he is visiting his friend, several of the students are kidnapped, including both Ip Chang and Cheung Fong.  Ip goes to the boat yard to rescue the children.  When he learns of the kidnapping of his son, Cheung also heads there.  Ip is forced to humble himself to save his son.  Cheung arrives and is allowed to come close because he is considered one of the gang.
At Fong’s pleading, Cheung begins battling the triads giving Ip the chance to do the same.  The battle is intense.  But while the two men each battled well and defeated numerous foes, the newspaper reporter chose to highlight only Ip’s success leaving Cheung’s accomplishment completely.  This upsets Cheung.
The kidnapping is finally enough to get Wing-san to tell her husband about the cancer killing her.  She lets him know that she only has about six months to live.  Master Ip realizes that he has been missing too many opportunities to spend time with his wife.
The tensions intensify as Frank continues to insist that Ma get him the school property.  I have to say that watching Mike Tyson play the character of Frank was interesting.  He interlaced Cantonese words into his primarily English speeches. And we got to see a fight between the boxer and Ip Man that was extremely well choreographed!
Cheung begins a campaign to discredit Master Ip.  First he has to prove he is worthy of challenging the master.  He does this by fighting and defeating all of the other masters in town.  Then he issues the challenge from his new school.  He accuses Master Ip of not teaching the true Wing Chun Kung Fu.  A date is set for the two to fight.
On the day of the scheduled fight, Master Ip is no where to be found.  The crowds of people in and around Cheung’s school are buzzing.  No one has a clue where he is or why he hasn’t shown up.  Where is he?  He is taking dance lessons at the dance studio where Bruce Lee worked.  He is dancing with his wife to make her happy.  That is more important to him than any challenge to his teaching ability or his martial arts style.  (Note: Bruce becomes a student of Master Ip following their discussion at the dance studio.)
When Master Ip fails to show, Master Cheung is declared to be the Grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu.  Wing-san does not like that her husband lost the challenge because he was spending time with her.  She sets up a rematch.  This one is just the two of them (Wing-san sits in the school’s foyers while the two men fight).  Master Ip defeats Master Cheung who relinquishes the title of “Grandmaster”.  Remarking that “what’s most important are the one’s closest to us” as he leaves with his wife.
The end of the film shows us that Wing-san died in 1960.   
The various subplots of this film are woven together very well.  The central plotline to this story, that of Ip Man and his family, is strong and well written.  This is a very complex storyline that the writers (Lai-yin Leung, Chan Tai-Li, and Edmond Wong) have put together.  It is not the martial arts movies of yesteryear.  It is a full-blooded action film that has amazing martial arts in it.
If you find you like this film as much as I did then I suggest you check out the first two films in this trilogy, IP MAN and IP MAN 2.  Both are currently available on DVD as well as on VOD outlets such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Directed by: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Mike Tyson, Lynn Hung
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of martial arts violence and brief strong language)
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 105 Min.
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Movie Site: www.IpMan3.com
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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