Fight Film Friday: Ip Man 2

Posted: February 4, 2011 in fight film friday
Tags: ,

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster
Hong Kong, 2010
Genre: Action, Historical
108 minutes

Donnie Yen returns as the Wing Chun master Ip Man as he struggles to teach martial arts in British-controlled Hong Kong.

Ip Man 2 picks up almost right where the first film left off, with our hero settling into his new home after fleeing from the Japanese in Foshan. Many of the cast from the previous installment reprise their roles, including Simon Yam, Louis Fan, and Lynn Hung. Veteran actors Kent Cheng and Sammo Hung join them on-screen, truly making this a star-studded affair. The story is essentially a re-hash of the last one, with Ip Man trying to fit in and teach his style of martial arts amidst foreign oppression. The villains are similarly one-note and caricaturized, leading to some absolutely hilarious hammed performances by the British antagonists. Yen and the supporting cast do well by comparison, but in the end the story is so blatantly nationalistic and contrived that it becomes hard to take anyone seriously. Even despite not securing the rights to feature Bruce Lee prominently, they couldn’t resist tagging him along at the end, just to say they did.

Announced even before the first Ip Man film was released, director Wilson Yip made sure to bring all the bells and whistles to the production of the sequel. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous to behold, every shot taken with care and precision. It captures a sort of romantically harsh image of Hong Kong under British rule, definitely more hopeful and light-hearted than its predecessor. The score is appropriately optimistic and prideful, hitting all the right emotional notes when called for. It’s hard to say whether everything came together too obviously, but the story itself somewhat contributes to this. Regardless, all the production values of the film are very solid, delivering a solid aesthetic experience to the audience.

Sammo Hung returns to the franchise as fight choreographer, and it’s fantastic to see his work again. Everything from the first movie is back and even bigger than before. There are more style on style matches than you can shake a stick at, and every fighter is endowed with great personality and character. The fights are fast-paced and are all nail-biters. The wire-fu goes just a little over the top, as does the cheesiness of the villain showdowns, but these sorts of things are to be expected in modern kung fu cinema. Yen and Hung do spectacularly, performing like true seasoned professionals. Newcomer Huang Xiaoming trained extensively before and during shooting to learn the art of Wing Chun, and his hard work shows. With a great blend between the classical and the modern, Ip Man 2 is great fun to watch, even with the blatant nationalist sentiment. Impressive visuals and even better fights, this is a great popcorn movie for anyone with an interest in Hong Kong film or martial arts movies.

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