The most impressive moment in 'Ip Man 3' doesn't involve lethal kicks or bone-rattling punches.
Try the stoic star’s face melting with a combination of love and loss.
The third film in the quasi-biographical franchise doesn’t disappoint on the action front. It dazzles, plain and simple, even with a new fight choreographer (“Kill Bill’s” Yuen Woo-Ping) calling the shots.
What begins as a prototypical action romp takes an emotional turn so dramatic it almost makes you forget the oddest stunt casting in recent memory.
Once more Donnie Yen plays Ip Man, the Wing Chun grandmaster known for his emotionless fighting style. This time, he’s forced to defend his son’s school, the target of a shady property developer.
is there any other kind of real estate professional in movies today?
It’ll take all of Ip Man’s skills to beat back the horde of goons attacking the school. Did we mention the actor tasked with giving the developer his growl? Iron Mike Tyson.
That’s not the whole story, though. A subplot involving a key character’s cancer diagnosis consumes much of the running time. So does the jealousy felt by a fellow Wing Chun devotee (Max Zhang).
“Ip Man 3” clumsily ties the threads together, often living down to the genre’s reputations. Fight, fight fight … and wait until the boring exposition wraps.
It doesn’t help that Tyson is best served in micro-cameos like his “Hangover” franchise chores. He’s given a few lines here, both in English and Cantonese, and gets KO’d by each. He’s still a hulking presence, so the inevitable battle between his character and Ip Man is almost worth the stunt casting.
The real Ip Man mentored Bruce Lee, and Danny Chan plays the martial arts legend as, you guessed it, a dance instructor.
That leads to the aforementioned scene showing Yen is more than an action superstar. The sequence is tender and true, a summation of love that’s more beautiful than most rom-com finales.
Let’s not forget those kinetic fight scenes, though. Ip Man takes on an assassin in a cramped elevator early on. The action soon spills out into the building, but the furious pace only intensifies with more room to roam.
And then there’s an epic battle in a warehouse, where Tyson’s thugs come at Ip Man in classic, one-on-one style. Hey, no genre is perfect.
FAST FACT: Donnie Yen will co-star in the upcoming “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One.”
Director Wilson Yip doesn’t resort to shaky cams or lightning fast edits. He trusts the chaos enveloping his stars. He employs sly camera angles and wide shots to make sure we see every fist and foot.
Tyson’s battle sequence is a hoot, if only for the physical contrast between the combatants. It’s like watching Freddy vs. Jason, a grudge match that works because the two weren’t meant to share the same stage together.
DID YOU KNOW: Mike Tyson suffered a broken finger shooting his fight sequences in ‘Ip Man 3.’
Yen’s Ip Man is a throwback in more ways than one. The story is set in the late 1959s, which lends the film an old-fashioned sheen. It’s the character’s selfless spirit that permeates the production. He’s violently humble and kind, a reluctant warrior happiest when he can praise anyone but himself.
We need more Ip Mans in the world. On screen and off.