When we last saw Man Sifu (Donnie Yen) he had just gotten finished publicly throttling a Japanese General, got shot up for his trouble and had just inspired a nation. That was last year when we saw the Wilson Yip directed ‘Ip Man’, a movie I personally thought was a near perfect blend of martial arts action and dramatic tension. As it turns out there’s more to the life of Master Ip Man that we need to be made aware of, mainly because the first film was such a success, which leads us to the inevitable sequel ‘Ip Man 2’. A sequel which pales to the original in almost every conceivable way.
Master Man has now setup shop in Hong Kong, borrowing a rooftop from his cousin, with his hope to start a martial arts school and spread the gospel of Wing Chung across the land. Unfortunately for Ip Man the students just aren’t coming which means the money isn’t coming which means his tall hot wife Zhang (Lynn Hung) has picked up where she left off the last movie, that being complaining and bitching. Plus she’s pregnant. One thing though, the last time we saw the Man’s young son, this being the Japanese occupation in the early 1940’s, he was about six years old. It’s the fifties now and he’s still six years old. What’s up with that?
Eventually Ip Man gets his first student in the impulsive Leung (Xiaoming Huang) which will lead to other students signing up which we hope would lead to financial solvency for his fledgling school and maybe calming down the hot wife, but all of his students are broke and really can’t pay. This does not make the wife happy. Plus the martial arts club dynamics are a little different in Hong Kong. First you need to demonstrate to the other masters that you are worthy to open school, which Ip Man does, but after that’s done you have to pay your dues to the supreme master, this being Master Hung (Sammo Hung), which Ip balks at. Because he has no money. Master Hung is not happy.
All of that stuff is just filler to get to what this movie is really about, that being nationalism and pride. While we left the Japanese boogeyman behind on the mainland, we’ve simply traded them in for a new boogeyman in the British. You see Master
Hung isn’t really a bad guy, he’s just trying to keep the British assholes happy and off everybody’s back, a concept which Ip Man isn’t down with. But during a Western / Chinese boxing demonstration the Supreme British Asshole goes too far by openly disrespecting Chinese boxing leading to Master Hung standing up for what’s right, and challenging the British boxing champ Twister (Darren Shahlavi) to a boxing match.
This match would not go well. You have to love the scene where Ip Man reaches for the towel to toss it in the ring but Hung stops him… Ooooh, a Rocky IV moment. Apollo and Hung are at the park in Heaven playing checkers right now. You know what’s up. Ip Man must defend the honor of his friend, of his family and of his nation, and challenges the muscle bound asshole known as Twister to match. Kung Fu vs. Boxing. It sounds silly. It is silly. And the final outcome of a ‘Rocky’ movie was more in doubt than the final outcome of this one.
For starters let us just say that ‘Ip Man 2’ isn’t a bad movie. In fact if there wasn’t an ‘Ip Man’ then this movie would be a completely functional, fairly entertaining diversion of a martial arts action film. But there was an ‘Ip Man’ and ‘Ip Man’ wasn’t any of that. It’s a little odd for both movies to feel so different from each other even though they are almost exactly the same featuring the same stars, same director and the same writer telling a similar story. Ip Man is minding his own business, Ip Man fights other masters, Ip Man loses a close friend, Ip Man has a big fight in the end to preserve national pride. But where the first movie felt important, felt like it had impact and relevance, the sequel felt inconsequential. Almost cartoonish and comical at points.
For instance in the first movie Ip Man battles ten Japanese soldiers in a way that was realistically presented. In this movie he battles ninety-five blade carrying thugs in a fish market which was wacky and over the top. In the first movie Ip Man has a couple of spirited, realistic battles with a couple of masters. In this movie Ip Man battles masters on large round wooden table complete with wires, impossible flips and dips and also has a 250 lb. Sammo Hung levitating through the air like Jesus. While General Miura in the first movie was certainly a villain, he was at least a villain that had some honor, an authentic character, a real person. In this movie the British were cartoon clowns. Ivan Drago from Rocky IV seemed more real by comparison.
Again, ‘Ip Man 2’ isn’t a bad movie as Donnie Yen effectively furthers the character he created in the first movie, the Sammo Hung choreographed fight sequences are effective, Lynn Hung is still taller than everybody else in the movie and at no point does ‘Ip Man 2’ feel dull or boring. The problem with this film is that it just withers so poorly in the shadow of the movie it follows.