The Grandmaster has aged a little, but still sees enough action to kick butt.
I can’t remember where I saw the first Ip Man (I think it was at a friend’s house) but I do remember being impressed by it. The action and the intensity were almost too much to handle. I haven’t actually had the chance to see Ip Man 2 (mea culpa), but I was definitely excited for Ip Man 3.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Ip Man series, it’s a biographical drama that is based on the life of Yip Man, who was a grand master of the martial art Wing Chun. Getting the first one right was incredibly important to the director, Wilson Yip, who even consulted with Yip Man’s son, Yip Chun. Going from movie one to movie three, I’m wondering if the spirit of that became a little lost en route.
The third installment explores Ip Man (Donnie Yen) settling into his life in Hong Kong. People want to train under him (like Bruce Lee – played by Danny Chan, and also recreated with CGI), and he has a younger son, Ip Ching (Wang Yan Shi), to take care of (the older son has gone away to study). Ip Ching actually ends up in a fight with another boy at school, and it turns out the boy is also a disciple of Wing Chun – under his father, Cheung Ting-Chi (Max Zhang). It’s the foundation for two story lines: a rivalry between Cheung and Ip Man, and problems in the community. The issues in the community arise because of intimidation tactics by Ma King-Sang (Patrick Tam), whose boss is Frank (Mike Tyson), an American property developer.
While this film doesn’t have the same panache I remember the first Ip Man having, it’s not bad. Donnie Yen looks a little tired in the role, and so does some of the sparring. There were some parts where I wasn’t sure if he was trying to play Ip Man as tired, or if that was just a mistake.
There’s also some necessary cheese in this (though, to be fair, Chinese cinema seems to enjoy delving into that a bit more) – some of the scenes with Ip Man’s wife, Wing-Sing (Lynn Hung) were a bit too cheesy for my liking.
Oh, and I guess you’ll want to know about Mike Tyson in this film. He’s…interesting. He delivers some of his lines in Cantonese, which is…awkward. Also – I felt his appearance in this film was too hyped. Some have been saying this is a movie putting Mike Tyson against Donnie Yen; as if it’s some sort of boxing match (and the trailer is guilty of this, too). It’s NOT. Tyson was not in much of the movie – which might be good news for those who aren’t Tyson fans.
Overall, the movie is not an awful night out, though I probably wouldn’t pull every string in the book to try and watch the film in theatres. It’s worth a watch if you’re looking for a good international film, and if you want an introduction to Donnie Yen, who will be in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Two and a half high kicks out of five.
In Metro Vancouver, it has a limited release starting today, but will be playing at two Cineplex Theatres: Vancouver’s International Village, and the Riverport Cinemas in Richmond.