Review: Ip Man 2 (Fantasia)

Ip Man 2 (Fantasia)
8 10

Plot: After fleeing the Japanese occupation of China during the Second World War, Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man (Donnie Yen) finds himself penniless in Hong Kong, with a pregnant wife, and a young son to support. He decides to open a Wing Chun academy, but the rival schools- dismissive of his technique, won’t allow him to practice in peace, and begin harassing his students. In order to be allowed to teach his technique, Ip Man must face Hung Gar Master Hung Jan Nam (Sammo Hung) in a duel. Meanwhile, Ip Man also has a date in the ring with a Twister (Darren Shalavi), a psychotic Western boxer.

Review: One of my favorite films to play at Fantasia last year was IP MAN, a Chinese bio-pic detailing the early life of the famed Grandmaster, who, in his later years, became famous for being Bruce Lee’s teacher. That film dealt mostly with the Japanese occupation of China during WW2, and this one picks up right where it left off.

In many parts of Asia, IP MAN 2 was a box office sensation, with it even out grossing IRON MAN 2 in several territories. Its amazing box office success has finally minted Donnie Yen as a superstar in Asia, which is long overdue, as he’s been making great Kung Fu flicks for twenty years.

Al things considered, IP MAN 2 is about on par with the first film. Action wise, this destroys it, with huge, elaborate fight scenes breaking out every five minutes or so. This is Yen’s fifth collaboration with director Wilson Yip (who did the first IP MAN, as well as DRAGON TIGER GATE, the awesome SPL/KILL ZONE, and FLASHPOINT). Yip does an incredible job here shooting the action, and Western directors should study his films closely to see how fight scenes are meant to be shot- provided they have as skilled a performer as Yen at their disposal.

One of the big selling points is that IP MAN 2 features Yen’s long-awaited big screen rematch with the legendary Sammo Hung- who he battled ferociously in SPL. In that regard, this is a bit o a disappointment, as they really only have one brief (but excellent) bout that has no clear winner. After that, they become allies; which is a bit of a cheat- but considering how hard it would have been to top SPL, maybe it was a good move after all.

The big duel here is between Yen, and the Western Boxer- who trumps Yen in terms of size and upper body strength. In a neat twist, Yen’s not allowed to use his legs during the final bout, so the fight becomes a desperate and bloody one. That fixes my main problem with the first film; that Yen was too invincible. Here, he takes more than his share of lumps, and the fights are much more exciting.

Where this film comes up short is in the story department. Ip Man fighting the Japanese occupation was more intriguing. Here, we get the old clichéd “my kung-fu is better than yours” for half the film, before it abruptly becomes a beat-by-beat remake of ROCKY IV- with one of Yen’s pals getting beaten to death by the freakishly strong opponent. There’s even a rousing “everybody can change” speech towards the end, which I suppose was meant to offset the outrageous broad, evil white man stereotypes that pervade the film.

Whatever problems I had with the storyline, IP MAN 2 still entertained the hell out of me, and for action it can’t be beat. While I would have loved a more compelling plot, it’s still a great kung-fu flick, and I can’t wait to see how Yen follows this up.

Grade: 8/10



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