You are currently displaying Big5
2 (2010)
Ip Man 2

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 08/28/2012
Summary: Emotional

In my estimation Donnie Yen has become a serious action actor--as opposed to merely an action prop (as he was generally used in films even as late as, say, Flashpoint).

In Donnie's early days he appeared in a number of superlative action films like OUATIC2, Wing Chun, Iron Monkey, and the TVB Fist of Fury series. But I always felt he was not much more than a ham with a sixth-degree black belt and a ridiculous snarl (a la Jet Li). I suspect most people like myself always enjoyed and admired his cinematic martial arts performances. This film, combined with its predecessor, however, finally pushed me over the edge to the point where I think Donnie and Bruce can be spoken of as being intriguingly comparable.

This film starts with Ip Man (the Cantonese romanization/pronunciation of the main character's name--played by Donnie) opening his school in a sketchy Hong Kong neighborhood, with the typical formula we have seen countless times previously. The school's existence creates trouble for the rival schools culminating in a big battle. And indeed a big fish market battle ensues that is very over the top and reminiscent of a mid-80s Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung film. And indeed, Sammo is credited with the action choreography for this film.

After the fish market scene, there is an inaugural trial for new martial art school masters in a large indoor venue wherein Ip Man must take on any of the other martial arts school masters who wish to challenge him. And indeed, it was great to see the great Fung Hark-On make an appearance as one of the masters! Ultimately Ip Man takes on the local big-boss master (played by Sammo) with a well-choreographed albeit well-over-the-top (even by already over-the-top 2010 standards) fight scene.

The story then pauses and turns into the rather painful topic of imperialism and racism--both very important topics for an understanding of 20th century Chinese history. The vast and heinous imperial crimes (tautological in itself) of the Japanese and British are still virtually unacknowledged by both of the criminal perpetrators. They really need to be known and discussed--particularly within popular Chinese culture among younger people.

As to whether the film handles this sensitive topic in an appropriate fashion is another matter, and is open to debate. As with most fllms of this genre, the universal message is that violence is the answer. And Donnie Yen has made a career playing the person that angrily and convincingly delivers justice through violence.

The melodramatic turn the story takes when the rival school's master takes on a European champion boxer was particularly emotionally evocative. This in turn sets up the deep, visceral hatred that can only be relieved by an appropriately violent climax and denouement. Again, a very typical cinematic formula in martial arts films. But there was unquestionably, for this reviewer, a deep seated angst that the film created that few other films (short of those directly involving racial atrocities) can create. At some point, situations are created where violence appears to be the only solution to attaining justice.

The final scene where Ip Man is faced with the ultimate choice, was particularly well written and executed.

Emotionally, the film is among the most powerful I have seen (partly because I feel strongly about the topic). Technically, as cinematic art, however, it was certainly uneven and questionably edited. Simon Yam, as is frequently the case, is purely an annoying distraction that is altogether out of place. The late cameo by a child who was later to become one of Ip Man's students in real life was very poorly executed and out of place. Fan Siu-Wong's appearance didn't have much purpose. And Lynn Hung (who nearly possesses the goddess-like presence of Fan Bingbing) was nothing but a flower vase here.

Larger questions came up in my mind after watching this film. I recently re-watched the (otherwise ghastly) 1977 Golden Harvest film about Bruce Lee's life and wondered just how much Donnie and Bruce actually have in common. I cannot help but believe that their angst-ridden films and the characters they play reflect who they are as people. In Bruce's case, art frequently imitated life as the aforementioned 1977 film so clearly demonstrated. And while I do not know all of the facts, I strongly suspect Bruce and Donnie had similarly difficult childhoods (having grown up in two vastly different cultures where they were away from their parents and not necessarily treated well). Donnie may lack the onscreen presence and sheer beauty that Bruce possessed, but I find their unmatched cinematic martial arts skill, their deep dedication thereto, as well as the genuineness of the anger that drives them in their films, strikingly and eerily similar. I would not be surprised to learn that Donnie Yen very much considers Bruce a role model. And indeed in some ways Donnie has really become, cinematically at least, what Bruce would have become.

Given Bruce's well-known convictions, this would have been exactly the type of film that would have further defined him.

With this film, I think I finally get Donnie. This is really him. This is his role.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 01/22/2012
Summary: Don't miss this.

At certain times throughout the history of world cinema, there are films that spring from a perfect alignment of talent, skill, and intelligence. The production of Ip Man [2008] is one of those movies. Donnie Yen was at the top of his game alongside his collaborater and director Wilson Yip. Together they turned out a vibrant, remarkable martial arts film. Mixed with some Sammo Hung action direction, you had yourself just a smashing good time at the movies.

Lightning strikes twice. The filmakers continue the saga with Yen's character moving to Hong Kong to continue his career. They bring Sammo Hung from behind the camera and give him a charismatic role. It's like a dollop of ice cream on top of a slice of tasty cake. Don't miss this enchanting sequel.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 02/16/2011
Summary: Excellent, not quite a classic

“Ip Man 2” is an exceptionally well done movie, full of action, pathos and profound themes. Donnie Yen continues his low-key nuanced performance in the title role; while the role itself is less emotionally compelling than in “Ip Man”, Yen fully inhabits it and makes it his own. Sammo Hung’s action choreography and its realization are superb.

The first set piece takes place in a fish warehouse where Ip Man goes to get Wong Leung, his hot-headed student, released Hong’s men who have kidnapped him. It is Ip Man against fifty or so thugs armed with clubs, choppers and poles. He not only uses his wing chun skills but also a lot of environmental props/weapons. Wooden pallets are particularly useful. There is a series of one on one battles with the various incumbent masters in which he has to defeat all challengers in order to get permission to open a martial arts school that is just about perfect. The actions directors made excellent use of wire work, stunt doubling and undercranking to allow old pros like Lo Meng and Fung Hak-On compete with Donnie Yen. They were a warm-up for the expected faceoff between Sammo and Donnie which ended in a most satisfying draw, applauded by the assembled masters and their students.

The ultimate and penultimate fights which pitted first Hung Chun-Nam and then Ip Man against the European boxing champion—a complete villain, overacted with enthusiastic élan by Darren Shahlavi—were almost anticlimactic. They had to happen, had to end in a certain way and progress according to a set formula. In the first fight the vicious westerner prevailed over Hung only because of an unexpected weakness of Hung’s. In the second Ip Man had to win but only after being pummeled and knocked almost unconscious a couple of times, seeing visions of his wife and child waiting for him (and wishing him not to die) and rallying from certain defeat more than once.

The movie begins with sepia toned shots from Ip Man that show some of the key points of the story so far ending with the Japanese entry into the city and Chow Ching Chuen shot in the head. The action shifts to Hong Kong after the war; the story is well constructed and perfectly paced in the beginning. Cheung Wing-Sing is pregnant with their second child, their son needs his school feels and they can't answer door to landlord because they don’t have the rent. Ip Man has donated school space but no students. Then Wong Leung shows up, more to take Ip Man's measure than become his student. When Ip Man bests him with almost no effort he comes back with three friends who think they are tough. In each case Ip Man not only defeats (but doesn't injure) them but does it without breaking a sweat. Soon they are on their knees, begging him to be their Sifu.

Everything in “Ip Man 2” flows from this. He has a school but must fight to keep it open; his students are harassed by other schools (although not completely without cause in a few cases) and he must go to their rescue; Chow Ching-Chuen shows up, a broken man, fearful and without memory, and he must not only help him but find his nephew a job. The job turns out to be as an illustrator in a local newspaper that is important in informing the Chinese about the challenge of the European champion to their fighters.

British officials are a racist, loutish lot, convinced of the inferiority of the Chinese. One police official goes out of his way to show contempt for his Chinese counterpart even while taking a bag of money from him. Twister, the European champion, is almost too bad to be true. He ridicules Chinese boxing, starts a riot before his exhibition fight and represents everything detestable about western attitudes toward Asia. His henchmen in racially charged depravity are the senior police officer on the take (Charlie Mayer who makes one want to flatten his very large and pointed nose), a smarmy, underhanded manager who changes the rules of the fight between rounds and a guy in a white suit, the only person not standing and cheering Ip Man after he has beaten Twister.

The challenges and insults by Twister and the inevitable showdown between him and Ip Man drag on for a bit. The episode has a different tone and seems separate from the first part of the movie. It isn’t a disaster by any means but is much more a “by the numbers” set of provocations and punch-fests than one would expect from the tightly written first half.

We return, more or less, to the historical Ip Man in an epilog showing the first meeting between the master and Bruce Lee followed by stylized illustrations of Lee’s early career under Ip Man’s tutelage. Along with the sepia toned flashbacks to the past at the very beginning of the movie this studied depiction of the future are visual and cinematic bookends for the story.

Ip Man 2 is not quite a classic but is a very good film

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/03/2010

The sequel to 2008's excellent and popular IP MAN probably has a little more basis in actual history, though I suspect it's still mostly fiction. Unfortunately it's also inferior to the original in pretty much every aspect.

The main weakness is the script, which is a massive festival of cheese and cliche with virtually no coherent character development. The HK Chinese are shown to be mostly scum, but then we're introduced to the British and realise that the Chinese are really noble, heroic, loyal etc after all... but then anybody would look that way next to the snarling, hateful, violent racism of the gwei lo. The narrative is basically ROCKY (some mix of all of them) with some confused messages about, err, well I'm not really sure except for a general sense that foreigners are bad. Mrs Ip Man's pregnancy is a bit odd, in that it has no bearing on the plot at all - the anticipated cliched exploitation of it never materialises, indeed is barely even mentioned. As with the entire Simon Yam subplot, not being there would have made no difference at all.

Donnie & Sammo both carry themselves well, indeed this is Sammo's finest performance for a while (Donnie is basically stoic and opaque) but it's a mixed bag from some of the other actors - especially the gwei lo. It always seems to be a problem when a director is working with cast members who aren't speaking his native language (though unless the language they're speaking is yours, you probably won't notice it). Sometimes they're OK, but in some scenes the delivery is completely unnatural.

The action is another mixed bag... whilst Donnie's demonstration of Wing Chun is mostly excellent, the quality of the fights depends very much on his opponents. Whilst it's great to see Fung Hak On and Sammo fighting again, it's hard to avoid the fact that they are old men now, and their fights rely too much on wirework that looks very unconvincing next to Donnie's attempts to portray authentic Wing Chun. The best fight is probably the group fight at the fish market, which focusses on the choreography and environmental interaction. The final fight with the boxer is just OK - the two styles don't really go well together.

Production values are excellent, at least, and the film looks great throughout - the sets and locations are very evocative of the time period. The music is rather annoying though - I don't know what the fixation is with getting Japanese composers involved with historical epic type Chinese films lately, but it rarely works. Kenji Kawai has done some great anime soundtracks, but I haven't enjoyed any of his HK/Chinese scores. Give some local talent a chance again, please, producers!

It might seem like I've done nothing but pick fault, so the conclusion that IP MAN 2 is not a bad film might come as a surprise. It's just not an especially good film, and suffers especially when compared to its excellent predecessor.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/03/2010

The first Ip Man movie was a relative rarity in today's world of Hong Kong films -- it was a locally-produced product that was a runaway success at the box office despite an ever-growing challenge from big-budget juggernauts launched from the hive of scum and villany known as Hollywood. So, in keeping with Hong Kong production houses' idiom of piggybacking on past triumphs, it was perhaps inevitable that a sequel would quickly find its' way into theatres and DVD players. Thankfully, Ip Man 2 is one of those elusive follow-ups that retains the same level of quality as its' predecessor.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 05/06/2010
Summary: Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip have done it again!

And here it is. The highly anticipated sequel to 2008's smash hit IP MAN which premiered across Asia most recently. Expectations have been sky high since day one, with legions of fans hoping to see a sequel that would far surpass its' predecessor. After its' release and many reviews following thereafter, those who haven't seen it yet has to wonder otherwise. So does the sequel really live up to its' hype of topping the original?

The sequel isn't far from where the original stopped by where Yip Man had to flee to Hong Kong to avoid further trouble with the Japanese, only to find matters worse when the locals and eventually the British starts troubling Yip Man's life. But as the movie sets off in Hong Kong, the tone completely changes for Ip Man. This is most evident through the scenery (great cinematography and sets) and the life activities which keeps driving on affecting Yip and his family. It's nothing like the desperate life-threatening setting in the original but life is still complicating, which the crew did a good job of maintaining. Taking place in Hong Kong also gives Yip Man the opportunity to face various interesting characters played by a varied cast of actors. Most crucial of these include Wong Leung (Huang Xiao-Ming), Master Hung (Sammo Hung) and Mr. Milos otherwise referred to as Twister (Iranian-British martial arts actor/stuntman Darren Shahlavi). And then you have some of the original characters returning as well like Yip Man's wife and kid Cheung Wing-Sing (Lynn Hung) and Yip Chun (Li Ze) respectively, Kam Shan-Chau (Louis Fan), Chow Ching-Chuen (Simon Yam) and his son Chow Kong-Yiu (Calvin Cheng) complementing and giving more space for Yip Man to fill in gaps of his life.

As with IP MAN, IP MAN 2 ventures into nationalistic and fictitious territory which might be a turn-off for some. Most of what happens in the movie is by far not true and the idea of fabricating the British the same way as how the Japanese were in the original also leave alot to be desired. One thing observers might want to bring up is how worse foreigners get treated here. The British are nothing more than racist and ignorant people without much cause of why they are driven to mock the Chinese. Plus there were alot in the movie that weren't explored when it came to the activities the British took part in which was also a very interesting thought. Instead, we just get to see how they organize tournaments showing the superiority of the British fighters and a bit of others stuff (protection racketeering and police corruption) that lacked depth. But that's just defeating the purpose of what the movie is about so I had no problems. This is about Yip Man and what we want to focus on is what he has to go through dramatically, even if it means sacrificing authenticity to make something emotionally and epically evoking. Compared to the original, his character has fully fleshed and is very different than before. More thoughtful, more sentimental, more caring, more human.

The acting ended up being wonderful, especially for Donnie Yen who has progressed alot these past two years and has come into his own as an actor. It's not perfect and there's alot of flaws as well. One is the foreign actors. From the moment they appear, the tone completely tones down at times despite intending to raise the excitement during intense scenes. From that point on their acting becomes laughable, like hearing a combination of voice actors dubbing cartoons and amateurs overdoing their improvised acting. Another is the underdevelopment and usage of most of the supporting actors. Noteworthy performances came from Sammo Hung, Kent Cheng, Huang Xiao-Ming, Lynn Hung, and Simon Yam but only few of them get decent screen-time. Lynn Hung is regulated to just being a small role as in the original and gets nothing much to do except to be the supportive wife. Simon Yam, on the other hand, was too underused this time appearing here and there and his role is nothing more than an extended cameo. Judging by the critical acclaim of his recent drama movies with Ann Hui (which I haven't seen yet), it's a shame he didn't get to show off more. I was really happy to see Sammo Hung in a good dramatic as well as action-oriented role but even he got unfair share of screen-time somehow. The relationship that grows between him and Donnie (always a treat watching favorite actors work with each other) symbolizes respect, friendship and learning but sadly it's not fully explored to really understand and be convinced of their bound. I wanted more because their acting was really exceptional here.

Action-wise, this was definitely an improvement to the original. Expectations on the action was quite high but changes and creativeness in choreography too low. It's like the thought of sticking to the formula and focus less on breaking rules. Here however, rules of staying true to styles get broken, only that things go way off the track and the choreography become something else. Something fresh, something attractive. I saw alot of freestyle techniques and, unlike the first movie (which was all about Donnie), also a great deal of spotlighting between everyone. That means Donnie gets to face better opponents this time around which was lacking in the original. From Huang Xiao-Ming, Sammo Hung to Darren Shahlavi, veteran kung fu movie actors Lo Mang and Fung Hak-On and many new dedicated martial artists and professional stuntmen. And what stroke me most was the motivation behind the characters fighting, which was still intact. That give the fights even more dimension and higher level of brilliance. Sammo Hung, who was behind the action choreography of the original assured us all that he still had enough to create good fight scenes but with this sequel, he's finally back on top creating what could be the best period MA action movie since DRUNKEN MASTER 2 and FIST OF LEGEND. Thank you Donnie and Sammo for bringing back life to Hong Kong MA movies!

Production values are, as always with Wilson Yip's new movies, top-notch and come with quality film-making results. Music (wonderfully composed by Kenji Kawai, can't get enough of it), cinematography/lighting, editing (not perfect), camerawork, sound; coupled with Wilson Yip's meticulous direction, and Jeff Mak's highly detailed art direction, Sammo Hung's creative choreography and Edmond Wong's captivating script. All done very tasteful.

Overall, to answer my question about whether IP MAN 2 surpasses IP MAN, my final conclusion is: yes, in the action department but falls slightly behind in the story and character development. As I've mentioned throughout the review, there's many flaws that could be worked on here. What are the great things about the sequel? A 3-dimensional Yip Man, new and improved MA action scenes, more involving story, and better music. The bad things? The underdevelopment of some of the characters (like in the original but only slightly lesser exposed this time), 1-dimensional antagonists (even compared to those in the original), the acting from the foreign actors, and the running-time (it's too short for a biopic, wanted to see more character development because all the characters were interesting).

Reviewer Score: 8