AFFD 2010: IP MAN 2 Review
[Our thanks to Liz Reed from MangaLife.com for this review, which has a slightly different perspective, since Liz hasn't seen the sequel's inspiration -- yet.]
Ip Man 2 is not about ass-kicking Sifu (Master) Ip Man showing Westerners who's boss. It's not even about proving oneself in the face of adversity. At the core, the film advocates spirit, self-cultivation, and foremost, respect among people of all races and backgrounds. But don't let that scare you away--while the message seems preachy, the visually stunning fight sequences, paired with witty characters and relatable relationships, will have you at the edge of your seat, believing every word and teaching Master Ip has to offer.
The film is a self-described "semi-autobiographical martial arts film" about legendary Master Ip Man (Donnie Yen), who taught Wing Chun martial arts to the infamous movie hero Bruce Lee. The sequel picks up where its predecessor left off: Ip's escape from Foshan and the Second Sino-Japanese War and move to Hong Kong, where he hopes to start his own Wing Chun school. Now settled with his pregnant wife and son, Ip struggles to attract students to his school and make ends meet.
After a comical battle with a tough young man named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming), students begin flocking to Ip's school to learn Wing Chun. However, his newfound popularity creates strains in the martial arts community, and Ip is challenged by other masters in Hong Kong to prove his worth. His jaw-dropping fight on a wobbling table with Master Hung (Sammo Hung) helps seal his status and friendship with the Hung Ga Master.
In the midst of British-colonialism and a post-war era, Ip Man 2 stays close to historical facts and struggles of a broken country. When British boxing coordinators organize a tournament in Hong Kong and boxing champion Twister defames Chinese martial arts, Ip Man stands as the last hope for his disgraced people. This clash of Eastern and Western values are still relevant in the 21st Century, and director Wilson Yip helps erase this discrimination through Ip's relatable determination and prowess as the film's hero.
The movie's tragic flaw is Ip's lack of conflict between family and martial arts. While the viewer can tell the love for his wife and Wing Chun creates a rift in their marriage, this aspect is hardly developed, and makes Ip a less sympathetic character when he returns to them in the end. While Ip is painted as a humble and peace-abiding man, I can't tell if the negligence of his family stems more from the limited script or his true personality. Lynn Hung's silent portrayl of Cheung Wing-sing seems more for looks than ability, and her stoicism remains through most of the film.
But despite this minor setback, the film flourishes through Ip's incredible and complex fight sequences (I can't even begin to pick a favorite) and his likeability as a pure hero, set on breaking stereotypes that come not only from the British, but the Chinese as well. The end is a true testament to his character as a whole, and we even get to see a quick interaction between a young Bruce Lee and his future Sifu.
Ip Man was selected as the Audience Award winner at last year's Asian Film Festival of Dallas, and while I did not see the first film, I'm sure people can expect to be visually thrilled about what the action-packed sequel has to offer.
Title: Ip Man 2
Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Edmond Wong
Starring: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Huang Xiaoming
Showing: July 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Landmark Magnolia in Dallas, as part of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas