Ip Man 3 lands all the right punches

LIONHEART: A tale of how a man chooses between both sides of his heart. Photo credit: IMDB
LIONHEART: A tale of how a man chooses between both sides of his heart. Photo credit: IMDB

The third installment of the Ip Man franchise proved to be a film I loved watching, despite my lack of proficiency in Chinese. I usually shy away from Mandarin films, but having watched the previous two installments, I was curious to see how the third would measure up. And it did so quite splendidly.

The film, directed by Wilson Yip, shows how the titular character, played by Donnie Yen, has to struggle between the two loves of his life – martial arts and his wife. The compelling part of the movie comes when Ip Man is forced to choose between spending his wife’s last few days with her or taking up a challenge he would normally not refuse. The plot becomes more intense when exterior threats are introduced and when his own child’s life is thrown in jeopardy. And in true Ip Man fashion, his dauntless character comes to light when he ultimately chooses which of the two he valued more.

The movie is a great illustration of the juxtaposition between the two most important things in a human being’s life. Having to choose between the ones we love the most and our passion is something that most people can identify with. This particular installment shows a more emotional and human side to Ip Man as compared to the others. As his wife struggles with her health issues, the movie shows the different facets in how Ip Man shows his love for her.

Another highlight of the movie is the introduction of a supposed antagonist that ends up not being one after all. Max Zhung’s character, Cheung Tin‑chi, adds a whole other dimension to the movie. Because of the complexity in his character, you will be left guessing throughout the movie if you should root for him or not. In many instances, Cheung struggles with his ego to be better than Ip Man but yet a particular scene shows the true heart of this character as he makes a U-turn and helps Ip Man when a bunch of children are kidnapped by thugs. Although he struggles with being recognized as the superior fighter, his knack for slinking back in the shadows whenever he helps Ip Man during the many fights that happen shows the humility that lies behind the proud front.

Yen is consistent in his portrayal. Being the main character for the three-part series may have resulted in viewers easily looking past his acting but he remains dedicated to the character and shows us a more vulnerable side to the usually fearless Ip Man. His chemistry with Zhung is very refreshing to watch.

The only negative side to the movie is Mike Tyson’s dialogue. I felt that weaving Cantonese/Mandarin into the boxing superstar’s lines was a little too far-fetched and came off as him trying too hard. But cringeworthy lines aside, his acting wasn’t that bad.

Despite the film’s minor shortcomings where the non-Asian cast is concerned, Ip Man 3 is an insightful portrayal of a man’s heart and his undying dedication to his passion and the people he loves. Viewers unfamiliar with the first two installments would still enjoy the movie.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars