aka. Donnie Yen vs. Mike Tyson
In what may well be his last martial arts-centric lead role, legendary Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen returns to one of his most memorable characters, that of Bruce Lee’s mentor, Ip Man.Whilst the Ip Man series has always played fast and loose with history, initially providing a welcome backstory to the legend of the man who taught Bruce Lee – with the obvious intention of leading up to the training of said student – copyright issues and problems with the Lee estate largely left the story drifting into increasingly fictitious territory in order to pad out the years and arguably make Ip Man’s history more eventful and action packed than it likely ever was.The positive side to this is that it’s enabled filmmakers to create several very interesting martial arts features, enshrouded in a faux history which, at the very least, feels authentic, and driven by a commanding performance by Donnie Yen. Over the course of three films, culminating in what we have to only assume is the start of Ip Man’s training of Bruce Lee, we get to learn about the grandmaster, his skills, his family and the battles that he (may or may not have) had to fight.
After establishing himself as not only a renowned martial arts master but also a defender of the local community – often far more effectively than the police (and sometimes even the state) can do – Ip Man now finds his Wing Chun practise threatened by a rival master who believes that he is the true master of Wing Chun, and finds his son’s school under threat from a shady American businessman who wants to reclaim the property for his real estate venture, by any means necessary.
Although it seems, at times, rather unlikely to be based on any historical fact, Ip Man 3 manages to maintain the same authentic feel and period vibe of its predecessors, and stay true to the ethos of the legendary master, allowing him to develop both at a personal level – with tragedy surrounding his home life – and also in terms of his practice, all the while facing impossible odds and insurmountable issues.
Forget Batman v Superman, this is one of the world's greatest martial artists versus one of the world's greatest boxers!
Yen is outstanding, once again, both in his respect for the role (which, despite several competing films about the character, he has certainly made his own) and also in the action department, which requires some tremendous feats against armies of assailants, whilst three key, brutal, one-on-one battles (including a decent enough although unlikely bout of Donnie Yen vs. Mike Tyson) are both innovative and spectacular (particularly from the 50-something Yen). Although the story is not quite as significant as its predecessors in terms of historical impact (faux or otherwise), it’s certainly an important personal struggle, and a fine fitting finale for the trilogy.
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