The Vault : Ip Man 3 (2015) Surprisingly Poignant

Ip Man (2008) was the fantastically gritty drama that was based on the life of Yip Man, the legendary mentor of a little known action star, Bruce Lee! The film was well received for its wonderfully choreographed fights and the harsh depiction of life during the Japanese invasion of China. Donnie Yen, who was cast in the role as Ip Man, is now pretty much synonymous with the role!

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Ip Man 3 (2015) is the latest chapter to the saga, following the sequel to the original in 2010, and looks to further add to the journey of Yip Man. This had a limited release over in the UK, so I managed to catch it on the big screen in the little time it was out!

The movie sees Yip Man as he moves into a less hectic role in life, away from all the Kung Fu and drama. He lives the quite life with his wife & child, while acting as a mentor and figure of responsibility to his community. This doesn’t last long, as his neighborhood starts to suffer badly from the acts of a brutal property developer Frank, who is working in cahoots with the local gangs to force the local people out. There’s also the small issue of a local rival, Cheung Tin-chi, attempting to usurp him as the best in Wing Chun, a problem he really could do without, but is forced to confront.

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The main driving force behind the movie surprisingly is not to do with our evil property mogul (Mike Tyson!), or the rising upstart trying to move him out the scene, but his wife, who has been by his side since the first film. We are used to seeing Yip Man handle multiple thugs, soldiers, criminal lords etc. but this sees him deal with a totally different type of battle, one that really puts him through a challenge he can’t simply fight himself out off. It’s this that really makes the film stand out from what could have just been a run of the mill Kung Fu film.

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That said, the fight scenes are as always, exhilarating. Mike Tyson brings a level of fear, and the intimidation to the table, but his role is clear in the movie, minimum talking, show the power, leave. Sure Ip Man 2 had a Boxing v Wing Chun showdown, but this fight just feels so much more savage, and Tyson’s sheer size and brute force does all the things it has to here. You have the usual Ip Man v several faceless thugs scene which combines humour and action, but another highlight is the superbly choreographed elevator fight with the hired Muay Thai muscle. It’s not just himself he has to protect, but his wife as well, which gives the fight a different dynamic.

The film does struggle a tad to balance out the multiple plot lines that are being told, as there are 3 separate arcs, and at just over 100 minutes, it didn’t really have the time to resolve them all fully. The film didn’t require two antagonists,  it’s understandable why Tyson had little screen time, but maybe a cameo would have been better suited, as he is marketed as the main villain!

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Ip Man 3 at times is a genuinely touching movie, and the scenes between Ip Man and his wife bring some sentiment not really seen since struggles of War in part 1. There’s also the usual verve and energy in the combat scenes you would expect in a film like this, and yes, you finally have an appearance from Bruce Lee! Most definitely worth a watch if you like your martial arts, as it is currently on Netflix UK!

Xander Cage…Stupidly Fun

Director : D.J.Caruso

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev


Return of Xander Cage is the 3rd in the series of xXx movies, starring Vin Diesel as the titular character. It’s been 12 years since the last instalment, State of the Union, which was pretty forgettable; can the latest release bring the franchise back to the forefront?

xXx, for those not aware, is a spy organisation, with the aim of recruiting extreme athletes for the purposes of espionage. This film picks up following the apparent death of the legendary Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), who decides to return back into the game following the death of a close friend.

We follow Xander Cage, as he attempts to retrieve Pandoras Box, a device that can control and drop satellites from the sky at will. The device is stolen by a group of mercenaries from the hands of the government, and it’s a race against time before the device ends up in the wrong hands.

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The story is very generic, and there isn’t anything mind-blowing. There is the usual McGuffin that is the goal of the film. In this case, Pandoras Box. The item itself has very little storyline, who created it? Why does it exist? It just does, for the sake of the film. The eventual betrayal in the film is shockingly predictable, and you can see it coming quite early on in the film. The  villain isn’t very threatening either, it’s just a random character in the background, who gets like 10 minutes screen time the entire film! They don’t really explain a motive behind why they are doing it, apart from, because they are! Is it for money? for power? for justice? Who knows….

This film is attempting the copy the highly successful template that the Fast films have deployed, using a diverse cast of characters, high octane stunts and  a total lack of logic when it comes it any resemblance of a story line! The movie itself is pretty safely nestled under ‘dumb action movie’, if you don’t take the film seriously at all, then you will enjoy it, try to analyse it, and you’ll be left dumbfounded!

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The main strengths of the movie is in the characters themselves, especially the scheming Xiang (Donnie Yen), who brings his vast charisma and action to the role, his character is by far the best, and probably even outshines the main star! The rest of the cast are big hitters too, but it’s a mixed bag regarding their characters. Xiang’s team is supported by Serena ,played by Bollywood superstar, Deepika Padukone, making a solid debut in Hollywood and legendary fighter Tony Jaa. But unfortunately Jaa is reduced to very little screen time, and portrayed as comic relief, a waste, considering the potential action scenes with him & Yen.

On the side of Xander Cage, are a bunch of ragtag rebels, but it does feel like most of them could have been cut out form the film. Ruby Rose is wonderful as sharpshooter Adele Wolff. Who is both witty, and highly useful in combat!  The other two, ‘getaway drive’ Tennyson (McCann) & DJ Nicks (Wu) feel pretty redundant, and only there to even up the so called teams. With the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Nina Dobrev & footballing superstar Neymar on board, the big doesn’t lack in big names!

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If the plot is nonsensical, the action is even more outrageous. If someone isn’t jumping across skyscrapers, and shattering thick glass ceilings, their upper cutting soldiers with a motorbike. If they’re not skating on the side of a bus, their exploding satellites with a plane!  It reaches a level where you just know no one will die, they even have the action cliché of two people standing back to back, shooting at all the enemy soldiers that have them surrounded. It’s utterly pointless, but it looks awfully slick. The film is very tongue in cheek, and even demeans itself by referring to the fact one of their new recruits for xXx thought he was joining the Avengers!

The film has the habit of trying to force us to believe the Xander Cage character is wanted by every women that sees him, the opening third shows him with several women, and it does feel like they are trying a bit too hard to make him look so desirable. They also really try to force on the one-liners, which just don’t work with this character. There’s one line that the film pretty much sets up at the start of the film, and when the moments arrives near the climax to use it, it just falls flat.

Overall, the film is nothing special, but it does have several moments that will probably make you laugh out loud, simply due to the sheer audacity of some of the stunts they pull off! With films like this, you tend to overlook the plot & character development, in exchange for the mindless action, and it’s here that it delivers. If you go watch this, knowing what you will expect, than its just harmless cinema fodder, that will pass a couple hours in the dreary January chill!

 

 

 

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