In Mandarin with Chinese and English Subtitles
Genre: Action/Martial Arts/Biography
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Huang
Xiaoming, To Yue-Hong, Fan Siu Wong, Lam Ka Tung, Kent Cheng,
Calvin Cheng, Simon Yam, Darren Shahlavi
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Scorpio East Pictures and Cathay-Keris
Rating: PG (Fighting Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.ipman2-movie.com
Opening Day: 29 April 2010
After Ip Man protected the dignity of Chinese during the Sino-Japanese war, Ip Man relocates to Hong Kong with his family.
Life is difficult for Ip Man and his family. The chief editor of a newspaper decides to lend Ip Man a place where he can teach Wing Chun and earn a living. However Ip Man could not gather any students as Wing Chun is unheard of in Hong Kong. One day, a young man, Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) challenges Ip Man and is defeated easily. Impressed, Wong gathers his friends to learn Wing Chun from Ip Man.
One day, Wong is challenged by a thug, Cheng Wai Kei (To Yue-Hong), the leader of the gang who practices Hung Fist. Defeated by Wong, Cheng plots revenge. Ip Man has to intervene to protect Wong, in the event; he meets Master Hung (Sammo Hung) who accused Ip Man of violating the rules of the Wushu society. In order to teach Wushu in Hong Kong, Ip Man has to accept challenges from masters of different Wushu sect. Ip Man accepts and defeats all masters except Master Hung whose skills are on par with Ip Man. Thus Ip Man gains the respect of Master Hung.
Master Hung gives Ip Man a ticket to watch “King of Boxing Competition” featuring a cold-blooded boxer, Twister who eventually wins the title. Cheng and a few others then perform a wushu sequence as entertainment. Twister thinks that it is a joke and beats up the performers on stage. This act angers Ip Man the other wushu masters present, resulting in a fight between Twister and them.
Ip Man puts up a good fight, showing his indomitable spirit. The westerners touched by his spirit, start to cheer for Ip Man. At last Ip Man uses Master Hung’s famous move to beat Twister, claiming back the lost dignity for the Chinese.
Wing Chun then becomes more popular in Hong Kong. In 1956, Wong brings a young man to become Ip Man’s student. This student named Bruce Lee later becomes the famous action movie star of his era.
I began my review of "Ip Man" one half years ago by proclaiming that Donnie Yen is to Ip Man what Jet Li is to Wong Fei-Hung. And quite befittingly, just as "Once Upon A Time in China" did for Jet Li, "Ip Man" has become the crowning achievement of Donnie Yen's acting career, both in terms of critical acclaim and box-office success. "Ip Man 2" therefore arrives on a wave of expectations- and so let this reviewer state that the sequel fulfils all these expectations and much more.
Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, we follow Ip Man now to the British colony of Hong Kong in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As he did at the cotton mill in Foshan, Ip Man opens his own academy to teach Wing Chun- this time on the rooftop of a news editor's (Pierre Ngo) apartment. Without the reputation he had previously in Foshan, business is bad until he meets Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming), an impetuous young man quite like Fan Siu-Wong's bandit Kam in the original.
Leung demands that Ip Man defeat him before he becomes Ip Man's pupil and the subsequent duel is the first of many thrilling kungfu sequences in the movie. Indeed, just watching the precision, power and speed of Donnie Yen's moves as Ip Man is reason enough to rejoice his return to the most iconic film character of his career. But as one soon finds out, this is no less than an appetiser for the later awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping sequences to come.
The next ups the ante as Ip Man goes fist to fist, kick to kick, with not just ten, but multiples of that, number of Master Hung's (Sammo Hung) disciples to rescue Leung whose brashness and arrogance has gotten him in trouble. Set around an old-style fish market, this confrontation is testament not just to Ip Man, sorry I meant, Donnie Yen's lightning-quick moves but also to the actor's agility and versatility as he handily uses a wooden crate and subsequently two knives to fend off his opponents. I apologise if I gush, but Donnie Yen is just that awesome onscreen.
Kudos too to action director Sammo Hung- this sequence would not be as thrilling were it not for the expert choreography and direction of Sammo whose camera direction perfectly mirrors the fluidity of Donnie Yen's action and ensures that the audience is never lost in the thick of the action. But perhaps the greatest praise for Sammo Hung should be reserved for his exhilarating one-on-one with Donnie Yen atop a round dining table surrounded by upturned stools.
Enlightening Ip Man's ignorance, Master Hung informs him that any martial arts pugilist who wants to open an academy in Hong Kong must first accept a challenge from all the wushu masters. So Ip Man appropriately shows up to prove his worth, going up against none other than Sammo Hung himself. If you were blown away by the finale between Yen and Hung in "SPL", let's just say that it is nothing compared to what you see here.
You've got to hand it to the 59-year old martial arts veteran as he leaps up across the sea of upturned stools onto the ring and proceeds to engage in a fast, furious and ferocious battle with Donnie Yen. The subsequent 10-min showdown between two equally-matched kungfu masters is, I would argue, worth the price of admission alone, and will definitely go down as one of the classic fighting sequences ever on film. Yes, if Yen's 'battle of ten' was the highlight of the original, then this Donnie Yen-Sammo Hung fight is that equivalent in this sequel.
Besides this match against Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung also goes mano-a-mano against a Western boxing champion, Twister (Darren Shahlavi), nicknamed the "King of Boxing", as the film shifts to portray the insolence of the Westerners towards the Chinese in the second half. At once, the parallel between the first film and the second becomes clear- in the first, Ip Man was fighting for the dignity of the Chinese people against the oppression of the Japanese; in this film, he will also eventually fight for the dignity of the Chinese people against the contempt of the West.
Admittedly, the similarities in the original and this sequel are a tad disappointing, since one would expect that Edmond Wong (producer Raymond Wong's son) would be bold enough to take the film in a different direction. What's also a letdown is the portrayal of the Westerners who receive scant characterization other than that they are a conniving, bullying lot. In fact, what nuance the original had in portraying the Japanese as more than just cardboard baddies is sadly lost this time round, resulting in a stereotyped portrayal of the Whites in the film as "evil gwai-los".
Thankfully, director Wilson Yip's polished execution and Sammo Hung's outstanding action direction delivers a spectacularly rousing showdown between Ip Man and Twister- in fact more so than the finale between Ip Man and General Miura in the original. Manipulative though it may be, the film's climax ultimately is stirring enough to leave you misty-eyed over Ip Man's indomitable spirit and humility, exemplifying once again that the spirit behind the martial arts is just as important, if not more important, than its form.
In the same way, Yen continues to embody the character of Ip Man so thoroughly that it's hard to imagine another actor in the role. We already know how good a martial arts actor Yen is, but Yen tops his career-best performance in the original with even more daring stunts and perhaps just as significantly, injecting more gravitas and pathos into the dramatic scenes here. It is firmly to Yen's credit that his scenes with pregnant wife (Xiong Dai Lin) and son are, though limited, simple yet powerfully effective in portraying Ip Man's commitment to his family.
And with Yen's winning performance, "Ip Man 2" again captures perfectly both the spirit of the master Ip Man as well as the art of Wing Chun. Like the original, it is not just thrilling and exciting, it is also moving and affecting. And together with its predecessor, it belongs right up there with the classic martial arts flicks of yesteryears.
(Simply a martial arts masterpiece, and destined to be another classic just like its predecessor)
Review by Gabriel Chong