Ip Man 2

Ip Man 2 (葉問2)
Made in: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, English
Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Siu Wong Fan, Kent Cheng, Darren Shahlavi
Year: 2010

Synopsis: Following the events of the first film, Donnie Yen returns in Ip Man 2, once again assuming the title role of the famous Wing Chun grandmaster (well-known for being the mentor of Bruce Lee).

It's the early fifties, and Master Ip has fled with his family from Foshan to British controlled Hong Kong. Settling back into a quiet life, his wife (Lynn Hung) is now pregnant with their second child.

With money running low, Master Ip decides to open a Wing Chun kung fu studio. After beating down several street punks (who end up becoming his first students), business starts booming and more youths eager to learn Wing Chun start joining up.

But soon, Ip Man learns that setting up a kung fu school in Hong Kong doesn't happen without the approval of the wealthy, overbearing Master Hung (Sammo Hung). In order to gain approval to operate a studio, Master Ip has to fight other kung fu masters at a special initiation ceremony.

Without giving anything away, Ip discovers that martial arts schools are permitted to operate only because Master Hung is part of a pay-off scam which involves local police officer "Fatso" (Kent Cheng, who always plays someone named Fatso in every martial arts movie he's in), and a corrupt Royal HK Police Chief Inspector (Charles Mayer).

All of this culminates in a match that pits Chinese style kung fu against Western Boxing, with an over-muscled freak nicknamed "Twister" (Darren Shahlavi) representing the Brits.

The Good: Like its predecessor, Ip Man 2 was made with great production values, and has plenty of exciting action (biographical inaccuracies aside).

Sammo Hung, who also served as fight choreographer for the film, did all of his own stunts and still looks pretty formidable despite his age. It should be noted that he started work on the film shortly after recovering from heart surgery.

Donnie Yen is once again very likeable as the soft-spoken protagonist, and we definitely root for him every time he winds up in trouble. It's also good to see some returning characters from the first film, such as Master Jun Shan Zhao (played by Siu Wong Fan).

The final fight sequences do a good job presenting some degree of realism. Wing Chun is great and all, but director Wilson Yip offers no illusions about the challenges of taking on a huge opponent who utilizes nothing but brute strength (and horrifying amounts of crotch sweat) to subdue challengers.

The Bad: Having characters from the first movie was nice, but it was a bit implausible that they all ended up in the same area of Hong Kong. Don't the filmmakers know how big Hong Kong is, and how packed full of people it was even way back then? By the looks of this film, you'd think that Hong Kong was made up of roughly three neighborhoods and a fish shop.

The British villains of Ip Man 2 were pretty much overblown caricatures (each horribly acted). Since the 70s, Hong Kong martial arts movies have played the "victory over arrogant westerners" theme over and over again. That was okay back then, because the sight of bell bottoms was enough to make anyone prone to random, violent outbursts.

While there's nothing wrong with stirring up a little patriotism every now and then, Ip Man 2 almost feels dated as it does so, especially with the two-dimensional portrayal of its villains.

In the first Ip Man film, the villains were Japanese invaders. And in this one, it's the dreaded British white people (aka "Foreign Devils," which, by the way, is not the name of a rock band).

Yes, I know these are period pieces. But the Chinese audiences they're intended for now live in an age where all Asian groups mingle together more easily. And those once-dreaded white people? They're the same folks who are engaging in international commerce (thus making China wealthier), teaching them English, welcoming them in their universities, and praising their delicious food (while leaving generous tips).

It's safe to say that those meek and humble Chinese kung fu masters have nothing to fear from the British Empire, or what it is today known as the land of David Cameron and beloved Benny Hill reruns.

And Donnie Yen's "let's all change and get along" speech at the end, which is eerily reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone's words of wisdom at the conclusion of Rocky IV, comes across as a bit contrived.

Kung fu movies are great and I hope they never go away...but they've got to change a little with the times.

Who would like this movie: Ip Man 2 is for kung fu movie fans, and for film buffs who want to see the likes of legends such as Sammo Hung in action once again. The movie's exciting, intense, and full of awesome stunts, but some of the thematic elements are way out of date and unnecessarily offensive.

(3 out of 4 stars, mainly because the action)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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