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 the film entertaining.
Following the events of the first film, Master IP (Donnie Yen) flees to Hong Kong with his wife (Lynn Xiong) and his son. To earn a living, he opens a Wing Chun school on a rooftop and soon earns his first student (Huang Xiaoming) by giving him a taste just how effective the art really is. But he attracts the attention of the other Kung Fu schools and it seems like they are organized mostly like the triads and most of them aren’t pleased that there is a new teacher in their turf. They challenge Ip Man to a series of duels with some of the group’s best practitioners (Long Meng and Fung Hak-On) that includes the most bad ass of them all: Master Hung Chan-Am (Sammo Hung) who steps up when Master Ip dispatches the other masters. But Master Hung is being forced by the British authorities to extort money from the schools and soon, Master Ip finds himself dragged into this situation and he may well be forced to fight once again for his country’s pride…
The first half of the film is pretty good. I liked the idea that the politics and the inside workings of the Chinese martial arts community come into exposition. It was a good move to follow the themes established by the first film as Master Ip is forced to take a stand against the ways of the corrupt martial artists. Donnie Yen’s charisma and convincing presence made the film’s first half quite convincing. Sure the set ups appeared a little contrived, how the master finds student, the master finds master themes are things we’ve all seen before; but what made it work was the fact that the scenes exuded passion especially when the viewer becomes privy to the martial arts duels. It was clever to see overturned stools and chairs in place of sharp swords and that rickety table as the venue for combat was very creative. The fights were real good and the highlight of the series of fights were the Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung fight. Once again, Sammo Hung comes out with stellar fight choreography as with the first film.
Now I can tolerate contrivances in plot mechanics, but the second half of the film just feels like a mixture of “Fearless”, “Born To Defense“, “True Legend” and even “Rocky IV”. We see the film truly depart from any historical details and becomes a full-fledged fictional tale. The film becomes filled with overblown commercialism, flag-waving, racism and really loud performances. The East versus West theme has been used many times before; with a more stronger, younger opponent bullying the humble Chinese people and of course it is up to Master Ip to uphold national pride. What bothered me is the fact that it was filled with racist cartoon-like caricatures and this type of storytelling may work in the past but not today. I know there is a hint of reality to these sequences (Asians are always discriminated against) but it is very uncomfortable with the manner that it executed its asymmetrical style. It is too simplistic and seemed aimed to appeal to the blind nationalist pride of the Chinese audience. I am not sure, but it felt really repulsive to see this type of filmmaking instigated by the filmmakers.
Now what made the film stay aloft was the well-executed fight sequences. We’ve seen the Kung Fu versus Western Boxing before in movies like Jet Li’s “Born to Defense” but this time around it was more intense and quite frankly, I felt like the stakes were higher because of the brutality in the fights. I guess I appreciated the fact that Donnie Yen was getting his tail kicked by the boxer as well; Master Ip looked like he was in a real fight. The English fighter was stronger and bigger; it was a case of “David vs. Goliath” and what made it worst was the fact that the odds were put in the stronger man’s favor. The fight was long and hard, as we actually saw Donnie Yen getting his ass beat. It was clever for the direction to have Master Ip get hurt, he appeared more human and not invincible. However, as much as the final fight was brutal, bloody and long, the highlight of the film still fell on the Donnie Yen-Sammo Hung encounter. It looked real traditional with some touches of wire-fu meant to enhance the blows and never to make the moves ’spiffy’. Wilson Yip knows how to shoot fight scenes and “Ip Man 2” is another testament to this.
I guess “IP MAN 2” may be nothing more than a money grab and sacrifices historical fact and authenticity in favor of commercialism. I admit, some fictional accounts may indeed be necessary to make a film more entertaining and “IP MAN 2” is real entertaining. It has a good first half and while the second half also entertains, it was all for the reasons that I wished it didn’t. Some people may find the 2nd half a little comical, as the acting becomes quite loud and crass as the over-the-top baddies just blunder around onscreen. I know Wilson Yip’s first “IP MAN” film wasn’t exactly a historical epic but at least it was disciplined to keep to its tone and energy. “Ip Man 2” does not expand on the story of Bruce Lee’s teacher, but rather just adds fiction to it. (The producers failed to secure the rights to portray Bruce Lee as a child throughout) I know Wong Kar-Wai’s upcoming dramatic- biopic “Ip Man” may well be the definitive movie about Master Ip, but I guess for now, this will have to do. But for those looking for straight up action, they will not be disappointed.
Star Rating: 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 … more
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.