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Original Title:
Ip Man 2

Hong Kong / China 2010

Martial Arts, Action

Wilson Yip

Donnie Yen
Lynn Xiong
Sammo Hung
Huang Xiaoming
Fan Siu-Wong
Kent Cheng
Darren Shahlavi
Charles Mayer
Calvin Cheng
Lo Meng
Fung Hak-On
To Yu-Hang
Simon Yam
Stefan Morawietz

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Ip Man 2

Story: Ip Man (Donnie Yen) has moved to Hong Kong with his wife (Lynn Xiong) and his son. There he opens a new martial arts school on the rooftop of a friend's house, but new disciples are staying away. Only after the young guy Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) is beaten by Ip Man in a fight, Ip has his first disciple to teach. Thanks to Wong the Wing Chun master has soon a good amount of students around him, but this also attracts the interest of other martial arts schools. One rule of these schools states that a martial artist can only call himself master if he stands a chance against them in a duel. Master Hung Chun-Nam (Sammo Hung) is the headmaster of this martial arts schools association and he is also instructed by the local british officials to collect protection money. At first, Ip Man and Hung are on hostile terms, because Ip refuses to pay any kind of protection money, but the two soon realize that they aren't so different at all.
One day a boxing tournament is held in which the world-famous champion Twister (Darren Shahlavi) is making fun of Chinese martial arts and knocks out every Chinese who dares to enter the ring and challenge him. However, Ip Man can't allow that China's pride is trampled on and thus enters the ring himself.

Review: "Ip Man 2" is one thing and one thing alone: an arrent attempt to milk the money-making success that the first part was. An attempt that proved successful as well, but as a sequel the movie is just a real disappointment. While the film can be attested the same level of quality as the first installment when it comes to the appealing pictures and the action choreography by Sammo Hung, which will surely satisfy martial arts fans, the rest is incredibly uninspired. It gets even worse. The unbelievably ridiculous and caricatural depiction of the westerners in the movie bestows a certain B-movie charm upon "Ip Man 2" and also arouses unintended laughter every now and then. This kind of sequel really wasn't needed. It may be nice to see Donnie Yen again his role as the quiet and even-tempered master and with his charisma he actually does a neat job carrying the movie most part of it, but when you look at "Ip Man 2" as a whole it really is a sequel without any passion.

One problem of the first installment was Ip Man's superiority. There was no one who really stood a chance against him and he surely didn't get a beating from anyone. Laudably this changes now. We already know that the martial arts master can face ten enemies all at once, but it now shows that a few more fighters who are equipped with weapons in fact pose a small threat to him. His fight against Sammo Hung proves that he isn't the only master in the country and in the fight against the boxer Twister Ip Man actually receives one hell of a beating! Gone is his Superman image and that's a good thing as it makes the numerous fights more thrilling and Ip Man more credible as a character. Because no fighter can be the winner of all fights. At least not against everyone, and this time Ip Man finally gets to face some worthy opponents. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the fights are more captivating this time and make a good amount of adrenalin rush through the viewer's veins.

Sammo Hung's choreography is well composed and once again accentuates the power, straightforwardness and effectivity of Wing Chung. However, his fight against Donnie Yen doesn't look that breathtaking as some critics made it sound. Nevertheless, if you think about what Sammo Hung achieves despite his weight and the fact that he is soon hitting 60 (!), then this is still quite an impressive effort. However, if you want to see Donnie Yen versus Sammo Hung at their best you should watch "SPL".
The extensive use of wires is a bit annoying as you can clearly see when they are used in certain scenes. A nice element, though, is that the movie's villian introduces western boxing in the film. For me it certainly lacks the aesthetics of Chinese martial arts, but it is a fitting addition to Donnie Yen's 1-million-punches-per-second fighting style. Moreover, the boxer's punches are so powerful that one is enough to knock out a normal individual instantly. This gives the final fight a special thrill. So you can certainly say, that the fights aren't the problem in "Ip Man 2".

The story is the problem: It simply arouses eye-rolling. We have seen all of this before and on more than one occasion. It seems as if the sequel shamelessly copied elements of other genre additions and in the end simply stole parts of their stories and made a new script out if it. In most parts the story of the first installment gets reused, which essentially makes "Ip Man 2" a rehash of the same story. Moreover, we get reminded of "Fearless" which itself made use of several elements of former works, too. The film also revolved around China's pride and a time in which westerners humiliated and took advantage of Chinese people. But the pictured depicted there was at least a bit more differentiated and didn't just sketch the image of a western devil without any honor and morality. The westerners in "Ip Man 2" are ridiculous caricatures which are also embodied by gruesomely bad acting performers. Especially the british superintendent is a real pain in the neck, while Darren Shahlavi as Twister is nonsensically shouting whenever he can and would like nothing more than to insult every Chinese guy personally if there weren't so many of them. Even though it might be historically correct that the westerners took advantage of the "sick Chinese man" whenever they could, a simplified character drawing the like we get here, if you can actually even call it that, shouldn't be allowed in a movie nowadays.

The lack of compassion and originality the screenplay was written with also becomes apparent in the supporting characters, especially in those we already know from the first part. It remains a mystery why they found their way into the movie. Since they are serving no purpose it's also not necessary to have watched the first installment, though. The award for the most unnecessary role in the movie goes to Lynn Xiong as Ip Man's wife. Actually, the film could have completely passed on those characters and simply have Donnie Yen thrown into a few captivating fights. Probably the end result of the movie would have looked better that way. At least the sets look appealing, the soundtrack by Kenji Kawai creates the necessary atmosphere and Ip Man's son Ip Chun has been the movie's consultant again. Nonetheless, those who want to watch a good movie which also provides at least a bit of depth maybe should go for "Fearless". Because Wilson Yip's sequel to the well done first part will only please martial arts fans and even they will have to bear with certain downsides.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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