Movie Review – The Hollywood Reporter
More than five years after their last collaboration, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip reunite IPs Man 3, the third and possibly final entry in their film series about the revered founder of the Wing Chun martial arts school. Reinforced by Yuen Woo-ping’s exhilarating action choreography and some stunts in the form of Mike Tyson and Zhang Jin (Wong’s star by Kar-wai rival IPs Man biopic the Grand Master), Yen and Yip managed to squeeze a usable movie out of a pedestrian plot riddled with flawed period details. On the road to home business success and the enthusiasm of Kung Fu enthusiasts overseas – the film’s rollout outside of Asia, in the United States and Australia, begins at the end of next month – IPs Man 3 could maybe score some names at the annual Hong Kong Film Awards.
the Photo is set in 1959, when the titular Grand Master is seen settling into his low-key life in Hong Kong after his decades of battling feuding rivals and then Japanese oppressors during Wworld War II – which was shown in the previous two episodes. The film follows the story of IPs Man 2 with face to face between IPs (Yen) and an adult Bruce Lee (Danny Chan). Defying the gritty, gritty action sequences that defined the franchise, the showdown unfolds in the genre of Matrix-like a slow motion that propelled Yuen to international public notoriety.
An intermittently effective franchise finale.
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As breathtaking as that opening scene may be, the fight is a red herring: neither Visual effects ni Lee (who in real life had already left for the United States in 1959) has a prominent presence in IPs Man 3. Even more than in samo Hung’s action choreography in the previous two films, the physical fights here – IPs taking on dozens of opponents in an incredibly intense streak in a shipyard, or just a single opponent in a single room – mostly takes place with your feet on the ground and bone-breaking fists. This terrestrial approach echoes IPs Everyday Life: Again, Yen offers a suitably low-key ride as a mild-mannered master, mingling with the masses and seeking nothing more than an ordinary life with his martial arts school and family.
IPs maintains this unassuming behavior even when trouble is brewing, when he is forced to confront local thugs who attempt to coerce the local elementary principal into selling the land his school was built on. In the middle of a cast of cartoonish allies (Leung Ka-yan’s exaggerated old-school master) and cartoonish villains (Patrick Tam’s moron), IPs is an almost holy presence. He shies away from taunts and is more than willing to kneel and bow down to his taunting enemies in order to protect his family and friends. While this humility is sometimes pushed to unconvincing limits, Yen achieves it with yet another performance grounded in grace, poise and well-placed humor.
After helping Yen reestablish his acting credentials over the years, Yip’s shrewd direction and artful fusion of conversation and fight scenes elevate the film above its mediocre, under-researched screenplay, written by a three-person team led by co-producer Edmond Wong. While Yen’s off-screen affair with Yip creates dramatic tension, his chemistry with Lynn Hung, who plays IPs women, Cheung Wing-shing, remains as strong as ever. The model-turned-actress’ controlled performance matches Yen’s step by step, cementing her status as one of the most quietly persuasive screen couples of recent years.
Then again, all eyes are likely on the showdown between Yen and Mike Tyson, who plays a pugilist American businessman who somehow colludes with British colonial police in a scheme land grabbing. While offering an intriguing clash of wildly different fighting styles, it’s nothing more than a thinly veiled nod to the officially sanctioned discourse of foreign collusion to undermine Hong Kong’s stability.
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Something more substantial eventually happens in a final showdown between IPs and someone who could be considered IPs shadow. With the Grand Master remaining a goody-two-shoes throughout – the Chinese equivalent, perhaps, of an old-school superhero who would never swipe to the dark side – it’s up to another character to embody the instincts darkest ones a fighter could harbor. In a role somewhat similar to the tone of the prestige-hungry fighter Ma San he played in the Grand MasterZhang Jin plays Cheung Tin-chi, an exiled martial arts expert on a relentless quest to replace IPs as the sole torchbearer of the traditional Wing Chun martial arts faction.
Beaming with arrogance, Zhang (who plays an equally aloof antagonist in SPL 2: A time of consequences) offers a remarkable contrast with Yen IPsas well as a tall adversary forcing the veteran action star to raise his game. Then, of course, that final thread about conniving power grabbers to claim the authentic Wing Chun mantle could be seen as screenwriter Wong pulling on others IPs Men’s Movies (the Grand MasterThe legend was born — IPs Man, IPs Man – The Final Fight) who emerged as his own franchise was on hiatus.
American distributor: Well Go USA
Production: Pegasus Motion Pictures in a Pegasus Motion Pictures (Hong Kong), My Pictures Studio, Dreams Salon Entertainment Culture, Starbright Communications Limited Overview
Starring: Donnie Yen, Zhang Jin, Lynn Hung, Mike Tyson
Director: Wilson Yip
Screenwriters: Edmond Wong, Chan Tai-liJill Leung
Producer: Raymond Wong
Director of photography: Kenny Tse
Production designer: Kenneth Mak
Costume Designer: Lee Pik kwan
Editor: Cheung Ka-fai
The music: Kenji kawaii
International Sales: Pegasus Motion Pictures Distribution
In Cantonese and English
Unrated, 105 minutes