Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ip Man 3

It's for real, folks - a movie starring Boston-raised Donnie Yen is actually playing Boston in a regular booking, which I don't think has happened since Iron Monkey was released by Dimension almost 15 years ago. Sure, there was that brief period soon after when he was doing smaller supporting roles, but it's been since Legend of the Fist in 2010 that he even had a small booking (a weekend at the Brattle).

I used to not get it - the people of Boston love their local movie stars, and maybe folks need to just get the word out. Still, I think Hong Kong movies are in a weird kind of limbo - they know they've got enough American fans that there's a chance that they'll get a local distributor who gives it a push into the mainstream, although the numbers on that aren't great these days. I've got no idea if it's better than the Mandarin movies which get a day-and-date release, but I've got to believe the visibility might help long-term.

Still, I opted to take relatively few chances on this one and catch it on the Thursday night "preview" show. Still nearly missed it - one of the fun things about working from home is that there are occasional moments when my high-end work laptop can't find a Wi-Fi connection despite my personal one grabbing it no problem, although the router/modem crapping out repeatedly at the most critical time happened to. Then the T's Charlie Card readers opted to screw with me, and MoviePass didn't have AMC Boston Common's listings on their app when I got there. Felt like I had some sort of electromagnetic disruption field, which has to be the most annoying superpower ever.

Got there just in time to watch it, though, and it was worthwhile. I really hope it does bang-up business this weekend rather than lose out because the local Chinese folks already have their pirate copies. I want a lot more of this sort of thing on the big screen rather than just on Blu-ray.

Yip Man 3 (aka Ip Man 3)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 21 January 2016 in AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, DCP)

The previews for the American release of Ip Man 3 have been playing it up as Donnie Yen versus Mike Tyson, and that's probably good marketing even if the former heavyweight champ is credited with a "special appearance" rather than as a co-star. If it gets some more people in the audience to see Yen in what has become his signature role, that's a good thing; he may not be quite what he was when he first started playing the grandmaster of Wing Chun eight years ago, but he shows that Hong Kong can still deliver rousing martial arts action like no-one else.

This time around, it's 1959, and Ip (Yen) is living a quiet life in Hong Kong, although his son Ching (Shi Wang-Yan) just got into a fight with another kid at elementary school, and that boy's father, Cheung Tin-chi (John Zhang Jin), is also teaching his son Wing Chun, though he pulls a rickshaw to try to earn the money to open his own martial-arts school. Speaking of schools, the kids' is located on prime real estate which "foreign devil" Frankie (Tyson) wants for his development plans, and he's not above sending goons out to intimidate the principal or even burn it down. Ip and his disciples try to stand guard, but in doing that he may be taking his wife Wing-sing (Lynn Hung Doi-lam) for granted, and between her pallor and boys of abdominal pain, that may be a worse idea than usual.

The various Ip Man films can sometimes have a questionable relationship with the actual life of the man, and I suspect that this one is no different, especially as far as him having a showdown with a crime boss who is basically Mike Tyson. On the other hand, if director Wilson Yip Wai-shun and the writers are making some attempt to follow true events, that would explain some of the messy sequencing of events and repeated sorry bits (although, to be fair, other Wing Chun practitioners objecting to Ip Man evolving the style is more from the films that are not pay off this series but which still run together somewhat). It's not particularly satisfying that the whole real-estate development plot gets pushed to the side along with all of its subplots and endearing spring characters, at least initially: it often makes Ip Man 3 feel like two sequels compressed into one film, though neither would necessarily make an entire movie on its own.

Full review on EFC.

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