I’m generally not a fan of martial arts movies, mostly because they seem to be about nothing other than martial arts. What bothered me greatly about 2008’s Ip Man was that it wasn’t a story so much as repeated set ups for the title character to fight; much of it had the simplistic feel of a 1950s American teen drama, where rival gangs in leather jackets glare at each other murderously until the leaders finally decide on a location for a rumble. We now have Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster, and it continues in this tradition. Only this time, the filmmakers up the ante by expanding the scale of the turf war – in British-occupied Hong Kong, Eastern martial arts will be matched against Western boxing.
Both this film and its predecessor are based on the life of Ip Man, a Chinese martial arts master renowned for introducing the world to Wing Chun, most prominently through his most famous student, Bruce Lee. Part of the problem is that, as depicted in the films, he’s not all that compelling; apart from spending a little too much time with his disciples and not enough with his family, the man is an unassuming and highly moral mentor stereotype, and his skills basically make him indestructible. The more I watched him winning match after match after match, many times completely free from injury, the more uninteresting he became. So too did the fight scenes. If I’m conditioned to know someone will be victorious no matter what, then I’m afraid even the best-choreographed action won’t be able to keep my attention.
The first film took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Master Ip descended from prosperity to poverty and was forced to partake in a fight with a Japanese general. The second film begins right as that match comes to an end; Master Ip (Donnie Yen) survives a shot to the neck and flees with his family to Hong Kong, where he hopes to open a Wing Chun martial arts academy. But money is an issue, and he can only afford a shack on the rooftop of an office building. When the students finally come, many of them are unable to pay their tuitions – but Master Ip is understanding and often lets them leave with IOUs. It seems that times are tough and the economy is down, which is all the more dire now that Ip’s wife (Lynn Hung) is pregnant with their second child.
Ip’s problems are exacerbated by a legion of corrupt martial arts masters, led by Master Hung (Sammo Hung). He’s bound by an unwritten but well understood set of rules, namely that no master can teach in peace until he proves himself worthy. And so Ip and Hung find themselves going head to head while precariously balanced atop a table; if one of them should fall, he will forfeit both the match and the honor of being addressed as Master. It’s a spectacle all right, and a pretty amazing one, but it’s also at the mercy of a plot that’s basically a clothesline on which to hang scene after scene of the same old, same old. Am I not supposed to care about the story and just focus on the choreography? You might as well ask me to forget about the plot of a novel and only notice the typeface.
Ip will find more trouble with a violent British boxer named Taylor “The Twister” Milos (Darren Shahlavi), a hulking gorilla who openly mocks martial arts and is part of an imperialist scheme to defame the Chinese. Shahlavi’s build and rugged, almost animalistic facial features suggest something disturbing, namely the intentional casting of an unusual-looking actor for the purposes of villain identification. His character is so one-dimensional, it’s as if he had been transplanted from an after school special about bullies. He wouldn’t be the only one; all of the British characters look about as strange as he does. Couple this with the fact that none of the English-speaking actors give decent performances, nor was their dialogue dubbed particularly well. With this in mind, the final match between Twister and Ip Man is little more than a set up for an astonishingly clunky sermon, one that would be better suited for a PSA about tolerance and equality.
Paging through the film’s press release, I stumbled onto a glaring chronological inconsistency. If the sequel takes place in 1949, which is nine years after the events of the original, then why does Master Ip’s firstborn son look no more than a year or two older? Some may consider this a minor detail, but to me, it’s an important oversight, especially since we’re talking about the life of someone who actually existed. No power on earth can make me believe that Ip Man and Ip Man 2 are anything close to historically accurate; his story has been distorted by filmmakers to serve as a backdrop for relentless action choreography, which can only go on for so long before it becomes incredibly boring. If it’s wrong of me to require more of a film than visual spectacle, I don’t think I ever want to be right.
After the highly successful IP MAN, Donnie Yen once again reprises his role as Bruce Lee’s teacher; the famed master of the martial arts style of Wing Chun in its sequel “IP Man 2”. But for this sequel director Wilson Yip and producer Raymond Wong takes the sensationalized biopic into something more commercial and crass. ‘IP MAN 2” is not a history lesson but more about martial arts action; and honestly the spectacular action may well be enough for most people to find … more
Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill.
September 17, 2010
Inferior to the first film, but still worth a look if you're a martial arts action fanatic. Sammo Hung's fight choreography is impressive as always; still provided some fun action entertainment despite a weak second half due to the fact that it failed to obtain licesing from Bruce Lee's living relatives. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Ip Man 2 is a 2010 semi-biographical martial arts film based on the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of Wing Chun martial arts. A sequel to the 2008 film Ip Man, the film was directed by Wilson Yip, and stars Donnie Yen, who reprises the leading role. Continuing after the events of the earlier film, the sequel centers on Ip's movements in Hong Kong, which is under British colonial rule. He attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun, but faces rivalry from other practitioners, including the local master of Hung Ga martial arts.
Producer Raymond Wong first announced a sequel before Ip Man's theatrical release in December 2008. Ip Man 2 was intended to focus on the relationship between Ip and his most famed disciple, Bruce Lee. The filmmakers, however, were unable to finalize film rights with Lee's descendants and decided to briefly portray Lee as a child. Principal photography for Ip Man 2 began in August 2009 and concluded in November; filming took place inside a studio located in Shanghai. For the sequel, Yip aimed to create a more dramatic martial arts film in terms of story and characterization; Wong's son, screenwriter Edmond Wong, wanted the film to portray how Chinese people were treated by the British, as well as the Western perceptions towards Chinese martial arts.
Ip Man 2 premiered in Beijing on 21 April 2010; the film was released in Hong Kong, as well as in other Asian territories on 29 April 2010.