Sunday Club 005: Ip Man 3

Sunday Club 005: Ip Man 3

In an attempt to give himself and Ashley something of a brief respite from the pure, unadulterated shit of previous Sunday Clubs Matthew decided to head for the bushes and pick the sequel to a series of films that he’d not only watched but actually enjoyed; hence we arrive at Ip Man 3.

Will it be the first week the team aren’t bored / appalled / offended? We can but pray…

MATTHEW SAYS:: The newest in the series of films which ahem “document” the life of Wing Chun master (and Bruce Lee’s mentor) Master Ip Man, played in an icy fashion by international don Donny Yen. Before we go any further let’s just pause for a moment to reflect on what a great name that is. Donnie. Yen. Don = Donny, Yen = Money. So, if you ignore the glaringly obvious detail that Yen is Japanese currency and Donnie Yen is Chinese, his name is basically Don Money. Donny Money… Makes Jet Li just sound outright silly by comparison.

Anyway having thoroughly enjoyed the phenomenal choreography and beautiful period features of the original Ip Man and been thoroughly bemused by the turbocharged nationalist jingo (who am I kidding it was basically straight up racism) of Ip Man 2 I thought I’d give the third instalment a bash… although in all honesty I didn’t really know this threequel existed until I clocked it in my local rental shop (shoutout the Spoon Web guys). The fact it seems to have popped up a fair while after the initial two, and also completely under my radar, implies I might actually have led Team Sunday Club further down the rabbit hole of totally shit filmmaking in which we seem eternally cursed to fervently burrow.

To quote Billy Dee Williams: “here goes nuthin”

And to be fair we got off to a banging started with the opening credits (made of course in the neo-classic martial arts film tradition of piss poor CGI models) In which I clocked the immortal words STARRING MIKE TYSON. Could it be?! Has Iron Mike returned to the cinematic ring after his glorious successes in that shit Hangover sequel and the even shitter sequel to that shit Hangover sequel? I dunno just yet but this is the most excited I’ve been about the opening of a Sunday Club ever!

As is de-riguer in the Ip Man series we open with Donny Yen decking his clothes drying rack with bare hands. So far so good. The franchise sticking to its winning formula… maybe Mike Tyson will be playing an even bigger clothes drying rack that Donnie Yen will have to deck!? God I’m excited.

Anyroad we open in 1959 and the first thing I realise is this the subtitles aren’t working on my disc again. Quick internet rummage and we’re back in the game. Turns out its Hong Kong 1959 (I probably could have guessed that without the subtitles in all honesty). A bloke asks Ip Man to teach him martial arts but Ip can’t be arsed and decides he’d rather have a nice cigarette… just because you’re martial arts royalty at the peak of physical fitness doesn’t mean you can’t have nice little vice every now and then does it? Take that Joe Wicks you Lean In Fifteen prick.

The bloke who wants to be a disciple of Ip’s  decides the best way to get in Ip’s good books is to kick the shit out of Ip’s cigarettes… That’s what I love most about Chinese martial arts films: none of that arthouse subtly nonsense. Essentially anything in a kung-fu fliock can and will turn into a dust up. You don’t hear the name of the man propositioning Ip but its basically Bruce Lee (who Ip trained in real life.) He keeps flicking his nose (classic Bruce) like he’s just done half a kilo of Logan’s Run (also classic Bruce). It’s wholly unnecessary in the flow of the film but a nice touch for fans none the less.

We then cut to a pair of toddlers having a fight. This is bloody well good we’ve already had two more fights than there were in the whole first two hours of Ben Hur 2K16. See? History can be fun. Apparently Chinese skin bruises instantly because the kids in this fight welt up the moment contact is made; It’s like watching two squabbling peaches. Peach Squabbler. Pun. As fights go that one was actually a bit more playground slapsies, but mustn’t grumble: I would have thoroughly preferred Ben Hur 2K16 if it had kept degenerating into slapsies for two hours.

After more obligatory fight scenes (there’s so many in the first half hour) we then get the big reveal we’ve all been waiting for: MIKE TYSON! DUBBED! IN CHINESE… AND ENGLISH!?! Obviously the producers were playing it safe with the big man’s acting abilities. Yes for some incongruous reason the actual Mike Tyson appears as a nefarious club owner and decides he wants to take over the school Ip’s son is at; assumedly for nefarious club purposes.

Excellent so that’s the entire plot set up.

In classic kung fu style some ruffians turf up at Ip’s son’s school on behalf of Mike Tyson and bully pleb teachers that don’t know kung fu… if only there was someone at the school who’s father was a kung fu master. He might be able to… Oh here’s Ip Man that was lovely timing. Shit kicking ensues. This is basically the flow of the film for the majority of its run time; someone gets exploited or bullied, Ip deals with them in spectacularly choreographed fashion and he then bickers with his wife because she basically thinks he’s a shit husband. This is a recurring theme throughout all three films… He is actually pretty blasé about most of his family responsibilities other than saving them in fights to be fair to Mrs Ip though.

Its well good all this fighting malarkey; how did the world ever get on before we all started fighting for / against each other? There’s so many people getting decked in this film. I’m not even sure if I’m following the plot properly but it doesn’t actually feel like too big of a deal currently. The tone of Ip Man 3 is a bit of a mess however. There’s all sorts going on: comedy pratfalls from street sellers, family dramas, bitter revenge. It works much better when they all just fight loads.

A British bloke who looks like an offcut from one of those over-fifties silver hair dye commercials turns up as a crooked police chief with a pretty racist Lavender Hill mob accent which leaves a slightly bad taste in the mouth too… but we did steal Hong Kong off China and start the opium wars though so I suppose I can’t really get too indignant about it.

That tonal balance problem basically then remains for the rest of the film: one of the characters flipflops seemingly at random between being a mindless henchman and a thoughtful kung-fu master, Mike Tyson disappears entirely and it turns out Ip’s wife has cancer; hopefully Ip Man will have a punch up with her cancer in a bit and this will all pan out just fine.

At points the picture almost wanders into spoof territory; like the scene where literally three hundred labourers turf up wielding monkey wrenches and hammers like the fire alarm has gone off in a Chinese Travis Perkins looking for a rumble… naturally Ip Man dispatches of them all individually…. I think by the midpoint of the film Donnie Yen has decked most of China. Twice.

The re-appearance of Mike Tyson and a Thai kick boxer he’s drafted in (apparently) from Ong Bak 7 has absolutely no relevance to anything that’s gone on in the past hour but a fantastic fight in the restrictive confines of a lift ensues between Ip and the aforementioned Thai bloke which is brilliantly executed. Oh fighting I have missed you! We had almost eight minutes of family melodrama with Ip’s wife’s cancer.

After Ip dispatches the kickboxer (that’s probably not a spoiler, this film is fairly one sided) Ip seeks out Mike Tyson for that long awaited showdown that was obviously going to happen and to be fair the fight with Tyson is actually brilliant, playing off Donnie Yen’s ridiculously fast flurries of rabbit punches against Tyson’s heavy slugger style. That should basically be Ip Man 3 wrapped up neatly but instead the film then rolls into a completely unwarranted fourth act where the bloke who sort of likes Ip Man but secretly doesn’t just starts wandering about restaurants punching people’s faces through glass tables of assorted shapes (there’s a lovely hexagonal one). Much like his earlier flirtings with working for the bad guys it’s not entirely convincing or necessary.

There’s then a quite amusing switch up where, instead of confronting the renegade master (who is back once again) Ip Man goes dancing instead. It’s a genuinely lovely change of pace and a surprisingly self-aware moment in a largely po-faced film. Maybe we should leave all that fighting behind us?

Nah actually there’s just time for one more fight. On the instruction of his dying wife Ip is told he must go and face his previous friend / rival / other bloke who does martial arts. It’s another typically amazing dust up but without the moral heft / narrative logic of the previous battles with evil gangsters & Mike Tyson it doesn’t really add up.

All said though its been a rip-roaringly silly two hours and if you don’t get bogged down in such dreary trappings as plotting it’s a finely crafted kung-fu picture. It also ends on a wonderfully strange note with a completely un-ironic montage featuring Donnie Yen giving his wife loads of foot massages… and there simply isn’t enough of that in modern filmmaking.

Thank fuck for Ip Man and relentless onscreen violence!!!

ASHLEY SAYS:: Now, I’ve not seen Ip Man one or two so I’m hoping that isn’t a prerequisite to watching number three. Assuming how most of the Sunday Club movies go down, I can probably just guess what happened in any prequels and pick up the storyline midway through this one.

One issue I may have here is that I speak zero Cantonese and the movie is without subtitles or dubbing so I’m going to have to guess what everyone is saying, I’m sure this won’t be a problem, it’s 90% fighting… Hopefully.

Let’s get going: the movie starts with a well good anti-smoking advert as Yip Man (Donnie Yen) trains young Bruce Lee (Danny Chan) to kick the shit out a pack of fags, this would be really annoying if Yip Man actually wanted a cigarette.

One of the kids fighting must belong to that violent sod Yip Man, I’m hoping that’ll be a lesson to him to stop making fighting look cool so that his son doesn’t keep bullying all the other kids in school. Let’s not be stupid, this is Donnie Yen, he can’t not look cool and he definitely ain’t going out like no sucker.

OH MY GOD!!! Iron Mike Tyson has turfed up dressed like Cliff Richard at the Wimbledon Final; the man really does do what he wants nowadays. Might I add here that his language is literally everywhere in the world; he starts in English, then switches to Cantonese dubbed into English, then into dubbed English, then back to Cantonese all in about three sentences.

It’s starting to seem a lot like ‘Snatch’ at the moment with Iron Mike setting up some illegal looking fighting tournament and a bunch of lairy blokes rocking up mob-handed to do over a bookies… this does actually seem like the sort of film where Statham could make an appearance in 2015 and still look completely out of place though. Much like Mike Tyson. A great bit from this gangland violence/petty vandalism is the kidnapping attempt of a pyjama-clad bookmaker (possibly), using a potato sack.

What is great about martial arts films is that the fight scenes haven’t really evolved much at all, which is a good thing. It’s still all about ridiculous flying through the air in slow motion and the rolling around on the floor like when footballer Rivaldo got “injured” by the ball in the 2002 World Cup. That’s what’s expected and ‘Ip Man 3’ presents this gloriously. There’s also a phenomenal ‘The Avengers’ (The British TV series not comic book wankery) style fight scene in an Umbrella kiosk.

This movie is so aesthetically pleasing! It’s like a Pintrester’s wet dream: I want every item of clothing. I want that bonsai tree. I want an old timey gun. I want Tyson’s face tattoo… even that crock of shit rickshaw.

The bad guy in this has all the bravado of a Guy Ritchie villain and there’s something freakishly hypnotizing and creepy about watching a child snatcher eat cheese off a dagger next to a crying infant.

It’s good to see that the director has made the same decision about Tyson’s role as every other film-maker who’s had to direct him in a film and that is for Iron Mike to say as little as possible.

How is Yip Man able to kick seven shades out of everyone except an aging, beach ready, Mike Tyson? … Who apparently is now dressed as 50 Cent in the video for, 2005 Shady Records club banger ‘Just A Lil’ Bit’.

I haven’t understood much of what’s been going on when there’s not been an epic fight sequence in a brolly store but I have noticed Yip Man’s gyal has been wearing a fragile sticker throughout the entire movie whilst looking like she’s fighting for her life, I think she now she actually is fighting for her life… hopefully she’ll die soon, she’ll only hold Yip Man back.

The final fight shows Yip Man take all the punches in the world with nary a flinch but Lord knows that getting poked in the eye is just the worst; it’s truly a fate worse than death and Yip Man cannot deal with that shit right now, as he frantically looks around for the eye-wash station to no avail with just one eye open.

I must say, I don’t entirely know what went on in this movie and why my guy Tyson was in it at all, but I will say that the movie is genuinely beautiful to watch, it’s shot magnificently and is the perfect tip-of-the-hat to martial arts movies of old, whilst still being able to embrace new age cinema techniques.

All-in-all it’s a pretty decent movie (finally!) I now cannot wait for ‘Rush Hour 4’.

Good work Matthew.

Ashley – @OnlyAshley
Matthew – @BurmaShave_