A worthy end to the Ip Man trilogy, at least for now. The third in the series is hamstrung by some pretty dodgy plotting that fails to deliver on early promises, and to its detriment it is more sincere than the gung-ho, endlessly entertaining second film, but it has the most imaginative and ambitious action sequences of the three, not an easy feat for three films worth of high-quality martial arts.
The story is that Ip Man (as always, Donnie Yen), now a highly respected martial arts teacher in Hong Kong, has to defend a school from being bought out illegally by a nefarious gangster, played by none other than Mike Tyson (yes, really). In addition, there is a challenger to Ip Man’s throne as grandmaster, a young father who is struggling financially and forced to take criminal work but deeply ambitious and talented, and to top things off, Ip Man’s wife gets taken ill. Unfortunately, the most promising of these plots (the conflict with Mike Tyson) is suddenly dispensed with midway through the film, but not before a highly entertaining showdown between Tyson and Yen. Tyson, unsurprisingly, is not much of an actor, but the fight between the two of them is excellent, and it’s a shame it finishes so quickly, especially as the film hints at a further showdown but doesn’t deliver.
Elsewhere, the illness of Ip Man’s wife plays a large part of the last third of the film, and there are some excellent directorial touches from Wilson Yip that give their relationship depth and emotional weight, quite impressive given that their relationship throughout the series up until this point remains a largely background element.
The action sequences are, as noted, the most ambitious of the series; elongated birds-eye shots with fighters tumbling down stairs; shipyard scraps amongst unfinished, hollow, ship hulls; and a final fight one-on-one fight that’s perhaps the series’ pinnacle, action-wise. No surprise that it’s Yuen Woo-Ping who takes on the action choreography here: a consummate master of the form, his work is almost always a joy to watch. Ip Man 3 may not be as absurdly funny and entertaining as the middle entry in the series, but it’s a fine way to cap off the trilogy.