Ip Man 2
Directed by Wilson Yip (Yip Wai Shun)
Continuing the narrative straight from where the first film left off, Ip Man 2 sees our titular hero (Donnie Yen) reprising his role in the sequel, following the further adventures of the grandmaster of Wing Chun. Just before the end of the Sino-Japanese war, Ip escapes the wrath of the Japanese prison camp by fleeing to Foshan with his wife and son. In desperate need of income he begins to teach Wing Chun to a group of pupils only to discover that martial arts schools there are operated like triads. Conflicts brew and tempers flare when Ip meets resistance from Master Hung (Sammo Hung), a fellow kung fu master, and the British authorities who bully the local fisherman. Somehow he finds himself amidst an East vs. West martial arts tournament where he has to fend for his country and countrymen against a racist boxing champion named Twister (Darren Shahlavi) who wreaks havoc on their national pride.
Ip Man 2 suffers mostly from its all-too-familiar screenplay. Think Rocky 4, The Karate Kid and any early Jean Claude Van-Damme film. Less dramatic arcs, little character development and the usual themes of integrity, ignorance and prejudice populate the screen. Yet somehow the sequel triumphs in terms of sheer entertainment value, mostly because of the screen time shared between Hong Kong action stars Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen. With Hung joining the cast as a rival master, Ip Man 2 raises the bar of martial arts performances even higher than its predecessor. Seeing Hung and Yen on-screen, side-by-side is nothing less than magic and is only exceeded by a showdown atop a wobbly table, in what would be the art of Wing Chun versus the style of Hung Ga Kuen. The action choreography, once again designed by Sammo Hung, continues to amaze, only improving on the previous film. Even more importantly, unlike the first film, Ip Man meets his match not once but twice. Perhaps the biggest let down with the original was that Ip Man was clearly better than everyone else and never in any danger of losing a battle. The suspense here is unbearable at times and watching the gut wrenching action inside the ring is just as painful as it looks. The production values are top-notch. Every swirling camera movement, every distinctive angle, every extreme close up makes for brilliant cinematography and pitch perfect editing – and while the kung-fu vs. boxing battles sequences have little to do with reality, they cinematically explode. Dare I say at times Raging Bull will come to mind?
Dynamic, relentless and funnier than its predecessor, Ip Man 2 is the flashier, hipper and better looking of the two. If you’re looking for a no-brainer martial arts flick where the fight choreography is at its best, Ip Man 2 will not disappoint.
– Ricky D