Friday, August 12, 2011

Ip Man 2

Directed by Wilson Yip.
2010. Rated R, 108 minutes.
Donnie Yen
Sammo Hung
Lynn Hung
Simon Yam
Siu-Wong Fan
Kent Cheng
Darren Shahlavi
Xiaoming Huang

At the end of the first movie, we’re told Ip Man relocates to Hong Kong and begins teaching martial arts. Roughly ten years later, he finds his prize pupil in none other than the legendary Bruce Lee. Ip Man 2 covers the time in his life between those two events. When we catch up with our hero he hasn’t been in Hong Kong, nor had his school open, for very long. In fact, he doesn’t even have any students yet. Eventually, one young man finds his way to Ip’s school hoping to learn Wing Chun. Of course, before he decides if he wants Ip as a master he has to try to defeat him first. After all, no sense learning how to fight from a guy you can beat up. If you saw the first movie then you know how such things turn out. Not only does the young man become Ip’s student, he brings back a bunch of friends before fully agreeing. Yes, they all try to beat him at once before they figure he’d be a good teacher to have.

If you know anything about movies then you know things aren’t all hunky dory after this. After word spreads about Ip’s school he fins he’s run afoul of the local crime-boss who also leads sort of a syndicate of martial arts masters. It seems you can’t teach martial arts in Hong Kong without their permission. How do you get their permission? Yup, gotta do some more fighting. This time it’s on a tabletop. You gotta see it to believe. In addition to all this, the British Army has a large presence in the city. One of their high-ranking officers has recruited their country’s heavyweight boxing champ to show these “Chinamen” a thing or two. He’s big, brash and has his WWE swag going full tilt.

Both films in th set are formulaic. The first is expertly crafted, helping us to gloss over its flaws. This one is well done also, just not quite as well. With such a easy reference point as its predecessor the formula, and the cracks in it, are more apparent. There is also an additional problem. Ip’s family recedes even farther into the background despite the fact they are about to add another mouth to feed. This lessens the overall experience. They help the first movie become greater than just a kung fu flick. That movie is about growing as a man, accepting responsibility, revenge and national pride. This one keeps the last two elements, but is much more about fighting than the original.

Don’t get me wrong. IM2 is still a very entertaining watch. The formula still holds together. It’s not quite as moving as it was t he first time, but it does the job. Then, there are those fight scenes. Once agina, we get a number of adrenaline pumping battles for us to feast our eyes on. To thank for that, we have the one and only Sammo Hung. He’s been in tons of kung fu flicks since the 1960s. To most Americans, he most remembered for starring in the TV series “Martial Law.” Here, he plays Master Hong, the crime-boss/martial arts master. However, he has a dual role. He also choreographed the fighting, as he did for the original film. Kudos to him. Martial arts fans and fans of the first movie should definitely check out this installment.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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