Master, You Really Can Fight Ten Men at Once.
As I come towards the end of my first year of reviews, I came to realize that I had started a few things that I had left unfinished. The first one I realized was a movie I had reviewed, but had not reviewed the sequel. And, I coincidentally noticed it because I felt like watching the movie again. I had reviewed the first movie back in November, and I also raved about it being one of the better martial arts movies in recent history. Solid storytelling mixed with fantastic fight scenes and some good performances as well. I had been told about how that one was a great martial arts movie so I decided to give it a watch, but I accidentally watched the lesser prequel instead. I still liked the prequel so much that I instantly went out and purchased the first movie and today’s movie. How did that work out for me? We’ll find out in my review of Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster, written by Edmond Wong, directed by Wilson Yip, and starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Darren Shahlavi, Huang Xiaoming, Lynn Hung, Charles Mayer, Kent Cheng, Fan Siu-wong, To Yu-hang, Ngo Ka-nin, Simon Yam, Calvin Cheng, Lo Mang, Fung Hak-on, and Brian Burrell.
After the events of the first movie, the Wing Chun martial arts master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) moves with his family to Hong Kong to open a school. At first, it’s slow going, but then a young man named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) comes along and becomes his student, and soon more follow. And with these new students comes trouble when Wong Leung gets held hostage after getting into a fight with members of another martial arts school. When Ip Man goes to rescue him, he comes into contact with Hung Chun-nam (Sammo Hung), who tells Ip Man that he must fight the other masters before he can teach in Hong Kong. Also, a western boxer named Taylor “The Twister” Milos (Darren Shahlavi) is coming to Hong Kong for an exhibition, and that’ll probably turn into something as well.
One could argue that Ip Man 2 suffers from roughly the same problems as most martial arts movies, but it also benefits from the same things they do. The story is pretty basic. It’s a fantasy version of Yip Man’s actual life, taking things that are told about the man and amping them up so that they’ll make for an interesting martial arts movie, and it accomplishes that very well. It boils down to two fairly common stories from martial arts movies put together. It starts off as the regular old “My Martial Arts is Better Than Your Martial Arts” storyline that is the root of so many martial arts movies. Then it turns into an equally as common “West vs. East” storyline to round out the movie. All stuff fans of the genre have seen before. They have a little bit of a personal story going on with Ip Man and his family, and the threats of his poverty, but none of that’s really mined for emotion. They do spend enough time with each character that we’re supposed to care about, so I guess they can be lauded for that.
What they really deserve to be lauded for is the martial arts. I love the fight scenes in the Ip Man series. They’re all spectacular. I still think the fight with 10 guys from the first movie is the best fight scene in the series, but there are still plenty quality ones to be found in this movie. The first big fight in the fish market pretty spectacular because of the number of people involved, but the choreography of the 10 man fight still impressed me more. The same goes for the fight with the various martial arts masters on the table later in the movie. Pretty cool, interesting idea, but not quite up to the high bar they already set. A good contender would be the final fight with “The Twister” Milos. It was the only fight that it seemed that Ip Man could possibly lose. Granted, you know he’ll win because he’s the hero, but you need a little danger or emotion to really get a fight up to spectacular status. It’s still always a pleasure to watch Donnie Yen do that machine gun style punching he does as Ip Man. I could watch a .gif of that all day long.
The performances all do their parts nicely, but it never really requires that much out of them. Donnie Yen performs his few moments of emotion very well, but who really cares about that? He punches faces great. I had the same problem with Lynn Hung as I had in the first movie in that she was always a bummer and a buzzkill, but she wasn’t around that often. Sammo Hung is always interesting to me. He just does not look like a guy that should be a martial arts star, but the guy knows what he’s doing. He’s really good at directing action as well. I’ve usually liked his work. Like in Game of Death when he had a similar fight to the one he has in this one where he’s outmatched by the white dude, but this time it actually had significance to the story. Darren Shahlavi could be knocked for being over the top in his portrayal of the bad guy, Taylor “The Twister” Milos, but it’s kind of what the role calls for. We have to hate this guy, and we wouldn’t really hate him too badly if he accidentally killed someone in a fair fight that he had not started. He’s got to be a sociopath that starts all the fights by randomly hating Chinese people, and then he’s got to beat one to death with his hands and try to cheat later on. Now we can hate you. They even have a bit in the end of the movie where a little boy shows up as Bruce Lee, who Yip Man actually trained. The kid goes a little overboard with the Bruce Lee impersonation, but he does look eerily like I imagine Bruce Lee would at that age.
Ip Man 2 is still a really good martial arts movie. I’d say that the first movie was probably better, but both of them have solid stories, both of them have solid performances, and both of them offer fantastic fight scenes. I’d say that the first movie proves itself a little bit better in the fight category, but this one does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of the martial arts genre, this is a movie you should see. You could do worse than watching it even if you’re not a fan of the genre. I have this movie on BluRay, and I’ll let you figure out where you can find it if you want to watch it. Not like Netflix or RedBox are paying me. Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster gets “No need to tell me all this. Let’s just fight” out of “Doesn’t matter. He’s better than you anyway.”
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