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Ip Man 2

Ip Man 2

Donnie Yen returns for more "Wing Chun, Ip Man" in Ip Man 2.

Chinese: 葉問2
Year: 2010
Director: Wilson Yip Wai-Shun
Producer: Raymond Wong Bak-Ming
Writer: Edmond Wong
Action: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Cast: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Huang Xiaoming, Lynn Xiong, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Carlson Cheng Ka-Sing, Dennis To Yue-Hong, Kent Cheng Juk-Si, Charlie Mayer, Darren Shahlavi, Louis Fan Siu-Wong, Pierre Ngo, Li Chak, Lo Meng, Fung Hak-On, Brian Burrell
The Skinny: Ip Man 2 entertains during its first half thanks to Donnie Yen's charisma and Sammo Hung's action. It also entertains during its second half - but for completely the wrong reasons. A money play from Wilson Yip and Raymond Wong that sacrifices effort and authenticity for crass commercialism, ugly racism and some incredibly loud acting. Hey, the action is awesome. For some, that may be all they need.
by Kozo:
The Man is back - Ip Man, that is. Donnie Yen returns to the role of the famed Wing Chun master for Ip Man 2, a blockbuster sequel also directed by Wilson Yip. But for the sequel, Yip and producer Raymond Wong go beyond Ip Man's sensationalized biography into something far more fictional, and the results are unbelievable if not inadvertently humorous. The second half of Ip Man 2 is basically a blow-by-blow retread of Rocky IV, which does absolutely nothing for the film's artistic cred. But hey, Ip Man 2 has Donnie Yen and it also has fighting. Fighting and bleeding and shouting. Those three things equal quality to a great many people, so let's get out of the way and let them have some fun. All things considered, it's quite easy to enjoy Ip Man 2 - though probably not for the correct reasons.

When we last left Ip Man (Donnie Yen), he'd migrated to Hong Kong along with his wife (Lynn Xiong) and son. Setting up a martial arts school on a rooftop, he earns his first student Wong Leung (super-handsome Huang Xiaoming) after demonstrating how kickass Wing Chun is. Unfortunately, the other martial arts schools, which are organized not unlike triads, aren't so excited about a new teacher in town. They challenge Ip Man to a series of duels with the other local masters, among them Lo Meng and Fung Hak-On. The biggest master of them all, both figuratively and literally, is Hung Chun-Nam (Sammo Hung), who steps into the fray when the other masters aren't able to humble Ip Man. Meanwhile, Hung Chun-Nam is under pressure from the corrupt British authorities, who collect protection money from the schools in exchange for allowing them to operate. Before long, Ip Man can't help but be pulled into that conflict too.

The first half of Ip Man 2 is nothing new. Ip Man's struggle to make it in Hong Kong versus the local martial arts masters recalls his conflict with the invading martial artists in the first Ip Man in that both demonstrate Ip Man's unwavering honor versus near-thuggish martial artists. The local martial arts schools have become morally compromised, and of course it's up to Ip Man to remind them of the true spirit of Chinese martial arts. This stuff is familiar but still engaging largely due to Donnie Yen's charismatic calm and Sammo Hung's stellar fight choreography. The first big fight sequence, a factory-set throwdown featuring Ip Man and Wong Leung versus a bunch of Hung's students, is exhilarating and creative, but the highlight is the Sammo-Donnie duel. It's a fast and intense fight that excites while also clueing us in on all the characters, themes and situations. If there's one thing you should pay to see in Ip Man 2, it's that moment.

After that? It's a predictable ride to cheeseville. Ip Man's conflicts with Hung and his followers continue, but of course, the biggest enemies are the evil foreigners who look down upon the Chinese people and are willing to spit and scream in order to let EVERYONE know. This storyline is also nothing new (see Fearless or True Legend for other takes), but Wilson Yip and company do away with any subtlety, creating what could be the most obnoxious, racist and hilarious white people in a Hong Kong film ever. The police superintendent (Charlie Mayer) is so slimy that he probably bleeds oil, but the cake-taker is Darren Shahlavi as Mr. Twister, the Brits' number one boxer and also the loudest man on the planet. Mr. Twister hates Chinese and loves to scream about it. Not one line the character utters is anything less than a shout, and Shahlavi's bursting veins are so visible during his screaming binges that they should have received their own screen credit. Eventually, Twister shows his disdain for Chinese in the worst way possible, and there's only one way for the Chinese to reclaim their pride: a Chinese person must beat him in the ring

Big surprise, it's Ip Man who decides to stand up for the Chinese, leading to a bloody Wing Chun versus western boxing match that's both rousing and disturbing. It's rousing thanks to Sammo Hung's action, which manages to be tense and exciting as Ip Man finds himself stymied by Mr. Twister's power and the sometimes corrupt officiating. The conflict is disturbing because the film tries to mix nationalist pride with racist, cartoonish caricatures - and frankly, this sort of storytelling just doesn't work in today's globalized media. The themes are terribly simplistic and appeal to the blind nationalist pride of a China audience, and the fact that the filmmakers are trying to profit off this sort of xenophobia is somewhat uncomfortable. There is historical basis behind the storyline, but telling it in such a lopsided fashion just feels ugly. Is complex, or even marginally more-than-shallow storytelling really that hard to handle?

Stripped down, Ip Man 2 is little more than a money play, sacrificing authenticity and complexity for old tropes and inconsistent effort. Parts of the production are aces, but costumes and geography are sometimes anachronistic or inaccurate; in one scene, Hong Kong is even portrayed as a flat, never-ending expanse of low-rise buildings an impossibility since mountains or the ocean are always visible no matter where you are in the territory. As a serious motion picture, Ip Man 2 lacks but hey, one man's crass commercialism is another man's comedy, and Ip Man 2 fulfills that need handily. If one ignores the ugly racism, Ip Man 2 can be hilarious and also quite exciting. The over-the-top bad guys satisfy fans of bad cinema, the action is tops and Donnie Yen is superbly subdued as the righteous, preternaturally calm Ip Man. Better to just like Ip Man 2 for Donnie Yen and the action rather than bleat about how ugly the whole thing seems. Anyway, producer Raymond Wong and company have already made bank, so any protest will likely fall on deaf ears. Money making triumphs in Ip Man 2, but good filmmaking? Perhaps another day. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2010)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Mandarin Films Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen