Released: December 24, 2015 (Hong Kong) January 15, 2016 (UK) January 22, 2016 (US)
Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Lynn Xiong, Jin Zhang, Danny Chan, Patrick Tan, Mike Tyson
Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U
“Lord have mercy, Jesus Christ
He’s just nice, he just slice like a ginsu
Look at the life that I’ve been through
I’m the last real n!&&@ alive, that’s official…”(Nas, Last Real N!&&@ Alive, 2002)
Suddenly you are reading this review like ‘What’s this Nas track got to do with the film?’ Allow me to explain. If we claim that Hip Hop is life, you can apply Hip Hop to anything. Such as the case with the latest instalment of the Ip Man trilogy. Yes there has been spin-offs and other adaptations of the legendary master out there, confusing some fans with prequels and what not, and as good as they are, it’s Wilson Yip’s formula that we are interested in…Does the third film live up to the last two masterpieces? If this is Donnie Yen’s ‘last martial arts film’, does he go out with a last ‘no shadow kick’???
So here’s me, doing something I thought I would never do, go to cinema alone to watch a film… sad huh? Well it was either that or let every Tyrone, Dontae & Harold on my Facebook tell me how it went down on their status… since the film has done a rare thing of coming out in the UK before the states, this time I can tell you how it went down! Ip Man 3 has smashed the box office over in Hong Kong, taking Star Wars: The Force Awakens off the top spot. Naturally it won’t do the same over here or across the pond, neither do I expect it to. But one thing is for sure, as soon as that theme music hit, doctors would have to remove the smile off my face hearing it through the cinema speakers.
The film begins ten years after the second… where the previous film’s ending saw a presumably 6-8 year old Bruce Lee wanting to learn kung fu from Master Ip to which Ip replies, “Come back when you’re older”…and Bruce (Danny Chan) was a man of integrity, comes back and finds Ip Man. After Ip Man puts his hopeful disciple to the test he asks him: “Did you think you kicked the water I threw at you?” A question that Bruce found himself struggling to answer, which may or may not bring about the origin to Bruce’s famous philosphies about water in that well known interview.
So ten years after the second film (1959) a new corrupt property developer has emerged to take over the city only known by the name ‘Frank’ (Mike Tyson). Unlike previous ‘foreign devils’ as the Chinese used to refer us to back then, Frank settled in Hong Kong, got married to a Chinese woman and learned their language as well as English. He owns a fight club, but it’s not enough… he targets the school where Ip Man’s kids are attending…that’s something you just don’t do -mess with the education of the future generation! So when Frank sends his brutal gangsters to seize control, Ip Man steps in and holds off the onslaught. In the midst of all this, Ip Ching (Ip Man’s son) becomes best friends with a fellow student, and his father Cheung Tin-Chi (Jin Zhang) happens to be a Wing Chun practioneer too. Even worse, Ip Man’s wife (Lynn Xiong) is diagnosed with Cancer, now Ip Man finds himself saving his son and the children from possible slavery and trying to help his wife deal with the incurable situation.
Now back to the question you asked me: What’s Nas’ Last Real N!&&@ Alive’ track got to do with this film?
“In the Firm I learned I Am NaStradamus
QB’s Finest, Oochie Wally, faced more problems
I gave it all up so I can chill at home with mama
She was getting old and sick so I stayed beside her
We had the best times, she asked would I make more songs
I told her not til I see her health get more strong
In the middle of that, Jay tried to sneak attack
Assassinate my character, degrade my hood
Cause in order for him to be the Don, Nas had to go…”
Rhyme & Reason: The people look up to Ip Man as the renowned hero and Wing Chun master, and his battles against the gangsters got him recognition and hitting news headlines. Cheung Tin-Chi, who had assisted Master Ip in these battles sees this and his admiration for Ip Man turns into a friendly rivalry turned jealousy. Tin-Chi challenges Ip Man to a public contest. But Ip uncharacteristically doesn’t show because Cheung Wing-Sing’s condition gets worse, and in the middle of all that, Tin-Chi spreads trick-knowledge saying Ip Man’s Wing Chun is not authentic and his is the purest form. So while Tin-Chi is not a villain, he’s not a pure hearted hero either. While he fights for what it’s right he will take money to do unjust things, such as wound the school principal enough to hospitalise him, set up a fake request for Ip Man to visit him in hospital as a distraction so that the thugs can go in and burn down the school. Tin-Chi wanted to prove that he was the ‘Don’ of Wing Chun, and so Wing-Sing sets up the fight between him and her loving husband to finally settle things. This would become her last act before she passed away in 1960.
“I was Scarface, Jay was Manolo
It hurt me when I had to kill him and his whole squad for dolo.”
Rhyme & Reason: In this case, Ip Man was Scarface and Tin-Chi was Manolo… only that Ip doesn’t kill Tin-Chi, or rather, he killed his fighting spirit in the battle. This serves as the final fight in the movie as they battle with poles and cleavers before testing each other’s Wing Chun. Great decision by director Wilson Yip as the second film was hit by fans questioning the science of Chinese boxing Vs Western boxing, which has been toned down a lot in this instalment of the biography. The trailer portrayed Donnie Yen’s character facing off against Tyson as the last fight when in reality it’s somewhere in the middle of the film. Tyson’s role was a minimal one. Aside from the Chinese language he spoke, Tyson does what he does best with his hands, but he doesn’t make a convincing villain in the film. It’s more of a spectacle than anything else, as Tyson’s character threatens to rid Hong Kong of Ip but challenges him to outlast him in 3 minutes. As Frank’s punches overwhelm our Wing Chun hero, he switches to Mantis Kung Fu to out manoeuvre Frank. Frank lets Ip go after 3 minutes and that’s the last we see of him. With that the film switches more to its authenticity and realism that made the first film such a success. But choreographer Yuen Woo Ping does not disappoint with the fight scenes, such as Ip and Tin-Chi fighting against the gangsters, Donnie’s signature lightning fast body blows, and the elevator fight scene where Frank hires an assassin to eliminate Ip in front of his wife.
Ip Man 3 is a great solid film to perhaps finish the biography trilogy with no hints of any more sequels, however fans might be disappointed into believing this was a film where we would see the relationship of Ip Man & Bruce Lee in terms of the martial arts standpoint, and all we see is the start of it, which might want fans wanting to see that in the future, but whether it’s Donnie’s portrayal of it is unlikely if what he says is true about Ip Man 3 being his last pure martial arts film. Danny Chan’s character only appears one other time in the film, and watching it in 2D just shows where the 3D elements would come in had I watched it in that format.
Towards the film’s end, the audience will become sympathetic to how Ip Man handles the loss of his wife, and the film ends with the famous interpolation of Ip Man sitting amongst Bruce and his fellow disciples. Before Bruce Lee became THAT MAN… Ip Man was the Last Real Dude Alive, and that’s OFFICIAL.