Director: Wilson Yip
Writers: Tai-lee Chan (as Tai-Li Chan), Hiu-Yan Choi
Stars: Donnie Yen, Xiaoming Huang, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
Ip Man 2 follows on from where the original movie left us with Ip Man and his family’s migration to Hong Kong. We follow Ip Man now to opening his own new academy to teach Wing Chun on the rooftop of his friend and the news editor’s (Pierre Ngo) apartment. Business is difficult for Ip Man in a strange city where without his reputation he had in Foshan is struggling to find new disciples to his teachings until a young man named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) who says he will only pay for lessons if Ip Man can defeat him. Unsurprisingly Ip Man defeats the young man who runs away embarrassed (without paying) but returns a short time afterwards with several friends who try and team up to defeat the master unsuccessfully. The young men realise that Ip Man is the real deal and ask for him to become their master.
Ip Man’s reputation in his new city begins to spread and his class grows. Things begin to look up for Ip Man until Leung is kidnapped and held to ransom by the students of a rival school. Again Ip Man must once again prove his worth, by freeing Leung and beating the rival students. This appears to be the theme throughout the second instalment of the Wing Chun Master’s story as time and time again the scenario is a challenge to over come that results in another challenge related to the previous (and there’s more to come)
By rescuing Leung it brings Ip Man to the attention of master Hung Chun-Nam (Sammo Hung), who runs the local martial arts schools. Ip Man is told he can only continue to teach Wing Chun if he completes the tests against the other masters and yet again, Ip Man has no choice but to show what he is capable of and defeats several masters and matches Hung in a one-on-one.
This scene is probably my best moment in the movie as the fighting sequences are flawless and in some cases very imaginative as the challenge set for Ip Man is to fight these masters on a table without being knocked off. Sammo Hung as Hung Chun-Nam is expectedly impressive in these scenes as he appears a lot older and heavier than Ip Man. But I suppose that is the point of his style of martial arts. Unassuming and effective as he matches the master of Wing Chun.
The first half of Ip Man 2 is largely based on him being accepted by students and masters alike. The second half of the movie shifts towards the main villains of the storyline in the occupational British (under the commonwealth) who to me are more portrayed as pantomime villains rather than as menacing as the Japanese were in the original movie. Besides the over elaborated bad accents the acting at time from the British contingent was questionable and unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong this is minor details in almost a very good film and although noticeable it isn’t distracting.
I was also delighted to see Siu-Wong Fan reprise his role as Jin from the first film and it was equally surprising to see his character as a reformed man who gets to portray a good guy in this sequel who appears to have accepted Ip Man as a superior martial artist. Disappointingly Siu-Wong Fan isn’t in the movie for long and serves his purpose to the story. I felt he should have been in the movie a little longer than he appears.
Ip Man 2 isn’t as good as the original but to be fair still is a solid martial arts movie with great fighting sequences. The finale though reminds me of Rocky IV in the character of Ip Man being perceived by a very hostile crowd and how his skill, honour and dignity wins the day and turns the minds of a very hostile British crowd into admirers of the master of Wing Chun.
I recommend that if you are watching this movie as a fan of martial arts then it will be a very enjoyable movie. Also watch out for a brief cameo at the very end that is cleverly inserted to give you an appetite for the 3rd instalment of the Ip Man series. Highly recommendable.