Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip reunite for a third round of wing chun-related action, this time detailing the grandmaster Ip Man’s clash with a corrupt American property tycoon played by Mike Tyson, alongside a title challenge from a rival master (Max Zhang Jin). Veering away from the series’ breast-beating jingoism, Ip Man 3 trades the crowd-pleasing intensity of its predecessors for a more introspective portrait of its central character.
Considered by many to be the architect of wuxia cinema, King Hu was to martial arts was John Ford was to the western. Beginning with his 1966 Shaw Brothers adventure Come Drink With Me, Hu took a pulp genre associated with little more than cheap entertainment and period adventures, and fashioned from it some of the industry’s most revered and enduring cinematic offerings.
Packed with action and steeped in tradition, Chen Kaige’s return to the wuxia genre is an exhilarating drama, as concerned with the philosophy behind martial arts as with their lethal execution. Wang Baoqiang embraces a rare starring role as the titular monk sent on a journey of self-discovery, whose travels see him cross paths with the likes of Aaron Kwok, Chang Chen, Lin Chiling and Yuen Wah.
A sequel in name only to Wilson Yip’s 2005 film, Soi Cheang’s SPL2: A Time For Consequences nevertheless recaptures the exhilarating energy of the original, expanding from Hong Kong to encompass Thailand’s criminal underworld. Showcasing a raft of top-tier martial artists, including Tony Jaa, Wu Jing and Max Zhang, Cheang’s film should transcend its narrative flaws to play strongly, both at home and to broad genre-loving audiences internationally.
Jean-Claude Van Damme continues to explore and embrace his darker side in this modest Asian action thriller, as a kidnap & rescue specialist who falls foul of organ traffickers in the Philippines. Sadly, budgetary constraints and a lack of interesting action beats make Pound Of Flesh as sloppy and indigestible as its title might suggest.