So once again we have survived.

Ip Man 2

tn_ipman2Ever since the runaway Hong-Kong-equivalent-of-best-picture-Oscar success of the Donnie-Yen-starring biopic IP MAN in 2008, Ip-Mania has swept the globe. In the U.S. it’s quickly become one of the most popular martial arts imports since ONG BAK, and this year will have its own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (at least I assume so. I sent them several letters demanding that). in Hong Kong it already has a (unrelated?) prequel and this very good sequel from returning director Wilson Yip.

IP MAN was very episodic and ended early in Ip Man’s life, so there was a natural opening to continue the story. But the movie had such a perfect blend of character drama and martial arts action that it’s alot to live up to. And in recent years the sequels to the international action phenomenons have been pretty iffy. I enjoyed ONG BAK 2, but it’s a big mess that lost alot of people, and I ahven’t heard anything good about part 3 yet. DISTRICT B13 ULTIMATUM was watchable but completely underwhelming. So this was far from a sure thing. There’s curses to overcome.

mp_ipman2This is gonna sound weird, but there were some hats that worried me. The story begins in Hong Kong in the early ’50s, but there’s a couple young dudes wearing what look like modern headwear. I’m not sure what’s up with that.

Ip Man is poor and living in the city, it’s got less of that sweeping epic feel the first one had with the war time conflicts and his aristocratic lifestyle living in the mansion for the first part. This is more like FIST OF LEGEND, a story about rival martial arts schools. Ip Man rents out the top of a building to teach Wing Chun, but he has no students until a young hot shot named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) shows up saying they’ll spar and if Ip Man can beat him he’ll sign up to become his student. Well, of course Ip Man can beat him, but Wong gets in a huff about it. Later Wong comes back with a bunch of friends, and Ip Man reluctantly beats them too, so they bow to him and he becomes their master.

These new disciples mean well, they’re loyal to Ip Man and the Wing Chun style, but you know how disciples can be. They’re dudes who like to go around and get in fights, so pretty quick Wong gets into a street fight with some jerks who represent what the subtitles on the DVD I saw call “Hong Kong style.” When Wong defeats them with Wing Chun they pull a bitch move, they pretend he attacked them and unfairly beat them up, so they take him hostage and demand that Ip Man come pay a ransom to get him back.

Ip Man shows up but won’t (and/or can’t) pay the money. Luckily Jin Shanzhao (Fan Siu-Wong, STORY OF RICKY) sees what’s going on and intervenes. Remember, that was the show off who showed up and challenged Ip Man in part 1, broke his wife’s vase and everything. He was the main villain in part 1. Now time has passed, he’s grown up a little, he has a wife and kid, so he and Ip Man might as well be old friends instead of enemies. It’s that thing I love, the “Beer’s To You” philosophy of ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, the Seagalian “I need time to change,” the Korean opponent coming back to fight by his side in BEST OF THE BEST 2, the embrace between opponents after a grueling UFC fight. Enemies who bond and become allies. It’s the perfect feel good theme for action movies.

So that situation is defused, but not completely, because then we meet Brother Hung, played by Sammo Hung (who also did the excellent fight choreography for both movies). He’s the master of these assholes, and the boss of all the martial arts schools. He says Ip Man has to follow the rules, he has to meet with the heads of the other schools and get permission to teach. Because he’s polite Ip Man does to got the meeting, where he doesn’t understand the customs but quickly finds out he has to defeat anyone who challenges him in a fight on top of a large table without falling off. So he defeats a couple of the teachers and then has to fight Brother Hung.

This is a classic, gravity-defying fight where 58 year old, heavyset Sammo Hung flips around and glides through the air and the two manage to stay balanced when the table is split in half and tossed across the room. Ip Man wins the right to teach, but Brother Hung tells him to pay dues. He refuses, so the conflict is still on.

Brother Hung is the highlight of the movie. He just seems like such a mean asshole, but then after the fight he sits down and says “Medicine” because he has asthma. I immediately sympathized with him. These two gain the Beer’s To You respect for each other over the course of the movie as Ip Man convinces him that having a duel with him is not as important as having dinner with his family (including a chubby little kid who stands licking a giant lollipop as they’re about to fight), and as Brother Hung shows a few signs of respect toward Ip Man and then fights courageously for the honor of Chinese martial arts as they’re being demeaned by westerners. So we don’t even have to wait for a sequel for a great villain to turn into a great ally.

Yes, this is another international fight tournament movie like FEARLESS or TRUE LEGEND. Brother Hung is involved with organizing this western style boxing match. He’s willing to compromise alot for it, but when the arrogant British boxing champ Twister (Darren Shahlavi) insults their wushu demonstrations he puts his foot down.

Ip Man’s wife isn’t as strong of a character this time, she’s just the wife who sees the symbolic importance of what Ip Man does and sacrifices her time with him for the cause. In fact she makes sure they don’t tell him when she goes into labor because she doesn’t want to distract him from his training! Man, that’s fucked. Just like A BETTER TOMORROW 2 how he missed the birth of his child to go have a shootout. Luckily Ip Man survives (SPOILER). Then when he gets home and his wife has a baby he doesn’t even seem surprised or guilty or anything. Hopefully she’ll make sure he doesn’t neglect his new kid because he’s so obssessed with the Wing Chun (like she did with the first one).

After the story’s all wrapped up it fades out, but then instead of going to the credits there’s a little scene where Ip Man’s first student Wong (based on a real guy, by the way) brings by a kid who wants to learn Wing Chun. It’s Bruce Lee, of course, a very good young lookalike. He acts humorously cocky, like he probly really was, but also like he somehow knows that hey man, I’m gonna grow up to be Bruce fucking Lee. Anyway he struts in, but Ip Man tells him to fuck off. The end.

Nah, actually he tells him to come back when he’s older. I thought this scene was great ’cause it’s the martial arts movie equivalent of the Joker card at the end of BATMAN BEGINS or the Nick Fury cameo after the credits in IRON MAN. You think it’s all over and then they toss you a tantalizing excitement bomb so you’ll spend the next few years anticipating a followup. I know Donnie Yen said he won’t risk blowing it by making a part 3, and they had trouble with the Lee estate when they wanted this one to focus on Ip Man and Lee’s relationship, but after this scene you definitely get hungry for the part 3 it implies, a sort of student and master buddy movie between humble old legend and young arrogant phenomenon. If they never make it I’m sure people will continue begging for it, like they do for EVIL DEAD 4 or some shit like that that’s probly never gonna happen.

The good news is Ip Man at this point is supposed to be alot older than Yen currently is, so they could naturally pick it up years from now if they had to wait that long to convince everybody. Of course, by then the hats will be even more modern.

Anyway, unless and until they blow it with a part 3 the IP MAN movies are great for their combination of fights and characters. Just absolutely topnotch fight choreography and performance where you care what happens ’cause you like these guys so much. And once again Yen is perfect as this uniquely polite asskicker. I love how constantly humble and apologetic he is. When he gets kicked out of his rooftop studio he says, “I understand. I’m sorry.” I think that should be the subtitle. When his future students want to fight him he says, “Don’t be rash.” In his argument with Brother Hung he says, “I understand what you’re saying.”

In fact, even in the fight with Twister, a total asshole with no sense of honor, Ip Man keeps his cool. Here is an early example of mixed martial arts and already they’re trying to rig it in favor of their style without even showing Ip Man the respect of learning his name. “Please tell the Chinese guy no more kicks like these.”

I can’t remember if Rocky had a flashback to some wisdom from Apollo Creed just before the winning blows in ROCKY IV, but he probly did. That’s sort of what Ip Man does here, remembering some words from Brother Hung during the fight, but then he flashes back to some of his own advice. With that in mind Ip Man’s outward humbleness is even more impressive, because that means he knows how fucking awesome he is.

If I had to choose at spear point I’d have to go with part 1 being the better of the two, because the setting is a little more visually arresting and because the international tournament thing, even though it’s inevitable in a continuing Ip Man series, has already been done well a few times in recent years. But that’s nitpicking. This is a really good sequel, a gem in its own right.

When we non-martial artist martial arts fans see a great martial arts movie we have to admit that some part of our brains fantasize about how great it would be if we could do that type of crazy shit if it came down to it. Some junkie tries to grab your wallet, so both of you leap nimbly to the top of a tree and have a sword duel (you throw in some Wing Chun, he keeps using Dope Style). Or we wish that whatever it is that we do could be as disciplined and powerful as a martial art. I mentioned in a review of FIST OF LEGEND or something that I would want to have criticism duels showing why my style is the best. Ip Man often introduces himself “Ip Man. Wing Chun.” I would have to say “Vern. Outlaw style.”

But I think the sign that this is a classic is that as much as I admire the fights it’s his personality that I go away thinking about. Since seeing the movie I’ve honestly thought about how Ip Man’s peaceful discussions could be applied to situations in my own life. Next time I’m in an angry confrontation with somebody I hope I’ll remember Ip Man and his “I understand” calmness, and see how well that can defuse the situation.

(if not, there’s always the swords.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 at 2:36 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

40 Responses to “Ip Man 2”

  1. Other than the fantastic fights (the battle at the fish market is another stand-out) it’s the little details in Donnie Yen’s performance that I loved. When his students come running up to tell him Wong’s been kidnapped, Ip Man just sits, finishes smoking his cigarette in silence while he contemplates his course of action.

    The prequel, Ip Man: The Legend is Born isn’t quite up to the standard of the Donnie Yen films, but it is still worth checking out. Sammo Hung once again has a hand in proceedings, as does Yuen Biao and Ip Man’s real-life son, Ip Chun.

    As for Ong Bak 3 – everything you’ve heard is true. It is a self-indulgent snooze fest. I actually enjoyed Ong Bak 2, flawed and unfinished as it was. The third instalment takes that horrible voice-over as it’s starting point and continues in the same vein. Painful.

  2. check out martyrs(2008), the french does horror!

  3. I wonder how historical accurate all that stuff is. I trained a few times under one of Wongs Master students, an Australian that was once married to his sister, and i definitly heard the storys about Wong chalenging Ip Man before joining his school. Well and the Bruce Lee part is certainly true but from my understanding Wong was his primary teacher in Ip Man’s school. Never heard of any international tournaments, but i heard they had a lot of comparison fights between different styles and they kind of destroyed anything there was in HongKong. I always thought Wing Chun wouldn’t look any good on film, guess i have to watch those movies to see how they portray it.

  4. DOPE STYLE!!!!

  5. Ong Bak 2 was a poor follow up to the original. Has anyone heard anything about Tony Jaa since he caught an elephant to the monks temple?

  6. “BR Baraka. Baby Ronald McDonald style.”

  7. It’s not a particularly great film, but the Yen/Hung fight in KILL ZONE is pretty cool. Hung is freaking fast.

  8. One thing I didn’t like about KILL ZONE was the lack of a golf club fight, after it starts with Simon Yam and Sammo Hung about to go at it with the clubs.

  9. One thing I don’t like about KILL ZONE is everything except that Yen/Hung fight.

  10. “Sabreman. Hiten Mitsurugi style.”

    Granted, it’s someone else’s made-up style. But back when I was teaching I did in fact design a quick-draw sabre game based on Kenshin Himura’s battou-jitsu. Completely worthless for training in any kind of fencing sabre match, and hell on the blades, plus rather dangerous–sabre blades are the thinnest and most likely to break of the three Olympic weapons, and they usually aren’t marked at the ends so it’s hard to tell when they’ve broken. But still fun. {g}

    (Also, “hiten mitsurugi” translates roughly to “highest-heaven triple-dragon”, which fits the story concept that Kenshin is heir to a style originally developed by a convert to Christianity during the medieval shogunate wars, who afterward went underground during the oppression of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In that sense, any fighting style I used ought to be ‘hiten mitsurugi’ I guess. {g!})

  11. Mr. Majestyk. Angry Watermelon Style.

  12. Majestyk: Did FLASH POINT work any better for you than KILL ZONE?

  13. Have it but haven’t seen it yet. I just thought KILL ZONE had adopted too many of contemporary Hollywood’s bad habits in terms of blah, self-serious tone and overcooked action filmatism. How does FLASHPOINT compare?

  14. I suspect that FLASH POINT really wants to be INFERNAL AFFAIRS but doesn’t have the mojo in the script department. It’s as glossy as KILL ZONE, but has much more of a brutal mean streak running through it.

    It’s probably too similar to KILL ZONE to really knock you out, but I think you’ll agree that it is the better film of the two.

  15. Speaking about ONG BAK 3. In enjoyed it almost as much as the second one. It´s the endfightscene that really was a big letdown.I don´t want to spoil anything ( well, I guess I kind of did by saying that the ending sucks). But i thought it was gonna be epic…and it wasn´t. But the rest of the movie is fine in my opinion. haven´t seen itmore than once so it´s just my first impressions of it.

  16. I really like Kill Zone (aka SPL – DAMN YOU, WEINSTEINS!!!), the fight between Wu Jing and Donnie Yen (knife vs telescopic baton) is excellent, as is the end fight with Sammo. Flashpoint is a lot more pulpy in style, but it builds to an excellent end fight-scene which starts out as a big shootout and boils down to Donnie Yen and Wu Jing throwing each other through furniture. Donnie’s adapted a fighting style which follows the Bruce Lee philosophy of “whatever works, works” – in it he utilises WWE-style throwdowns as well as his excellent footwork.

    Ong Bak 3 only has one decent fight sequence. That’s not to say there aren’t one or two scraps along the way, but they are really poorly shot and amount to Tony Jaa standing centre screen while people run at him one at a time from left and right. It took me three attempts to watch the whole film as I kept falling asleep.

  17. Not to be a ass but that’s Colin Chou Donnie fights in the end of Flash Point.

  18. D’oh! you’re right. Wu Jing wasn’t even in that one! but still, a good end fight scene.

  19. Mouth, Universal Soldier style.

    Uh, I’ll work on that.

    There ain’t enough hours in the day for me to catch up on these awesome sequels. But that’s a good problem to have. I’ll watch Donnie Yen in anything. I’ll be waiting for ONG BAK 3 to come to my local cinema in a couple months to scope it. Expectations are high; fuck you and your spoilers.

    FLASHPOINT indeed had a badass ending sequence, a tense armed pursuit plussed up with a multi-climax duel, which is exactly like how it was when I was relationshipping with this feisty chick who liked to grapple before grinding.
    “Mouth. WTF? Is that a hickey on your neck?”
    “No, sir, it’s a bruise from being guillotined by my girlfriend.”
    “Alright then. Carry on.”
    Good times.

  20. would you be reviewing Segal’s Black Thunder?

  21. Strange. Strange style.

    This is a classic Vern review because once again it permits us a peek into one of Vern’s biggest concerns: trying to go straight after a life of crime, alcohol, etc. Vern is fascinated with being a better person; striving for excellence not just in his work, but morally and ethically as well. It’s why the “Beer’s To You” philosophy fascinates him so much and why that scene from On Deadly Ground is a template for how to deal with shitty talkbackers. It’s been part of his mission statement from the very beginning of his blog and I’m glad to see it continues to this day.

    Vern, I say this to you: hats off. Anyone as focused on self-improvement as you are can’t help but be living right already. Or it is just badass juxtaposition and you are still a major asskicker who occasionally takes time to reflect and write on his web sight.

  22. I haven’t seen this movie yet, so I will comment on something completely else:

    Have people seen the new Cowboys & Aliens trailer? Holy fuck it looks totally badass, I didn’t expect it to look even nearly as great as it does.

  23. MikeOutWest. It took you three attempts to watch Ong Bak 3 without falling asleep. It took me seven times to watch ATTACK FORCE with Steven Seagal to see it through. Six times I fell asleep, the seventh time I managed to stay awake and watch it the whole way through.

  24. I saw this one at Fantastic Fest here in Austin this past October, and I enjoyed it but I was not able to like the film as much as I wanted. My problem with this film and the first IP MAN movie is that despite being good martial arts movies, and featuring great performances form Donnie Yen, they are both overt nationalistic pride propaganda films. In the first IP MAN overcoming Japanese oppression was a main theme of the story and in this one it is showing the white devils who is boss. I often mock Micheal Bay for making big budget propaganda films where America always triumphs and the military is portrayed as heroic saviors, so I feel like I am being a hypocrite if I let these films slide just because I think the film making is better and they feature some great martial arts. I don’t support thoughtless pro America propaganda and I can’t support pro Chinese propaganda either. I also feel like the real master IP Man would not be down with his life story being manipulated into a pro Chinese propaganda film. He seems more like the type of guy that would want to bring people together instead of trying to point out how because he was Chinese he was some how better then some one from Japan or England. Just to be clear I am not saying the movie is bad, but I didn’t like it as much as I hoped.

    On a positive note I thought having Sammo in this one added a lot to the movie. He is such a great screen presence.

  25. Mr. Majestyk: “I just thought KILL ZONE had adopted too many of contemporary Hollywood’s bad habits in terms of…overcooked action filmatism.”

    How so? I’m curious because I actually thought KILL ZONE’s action scenes were handled in an ideal manner, allowing the viewer to appreciate the choreography and athleticism on display. That fight between Yen and Wu Jing, in particular, was filled with fluid camera movements and fairly lengthy, steady shots of the combat, resulting in one of the most impressive martial arts battles I’ve seen in a movie (though the knife fights in the new Korean film THE MAN FROM NOWHERE give it a run for its money).

    I’m pretty surprised at the lukewarm reactions to KILL ZONE that have been posted here. I thought it was one of the better action films to come out in recent years and out of the four Wilson Yip-directed movies I’ve seen (this, FLASHPOINT, IP MAN 1 and 2), this is the only one that felt like a complete success to me. It certainly is melodramatic, but I still thought the drama and emotion was handled in a sincere and convincing way. The IP MAN films, on the other hand, go way overboard in their attempts to drum up emotion and the heavy tone of nationalistic propaganda, like Charles mentioned, annoyed me and kind of wore me down. FLASHPOINT just felt lazy in between the awesome action scenes; I would go as far to say that every moment outside of the action is pretty awful and full of too many unintentionally funny moments.

  26. I don’t remember any specifics because the movie didn’t make much impression on me. It just kind of washed over me like an Andrzej Bartkowiak movie.

  27. Andrzej Bartkowiak– that’s fucking mean.

  28. Charles: While I agree with you that there is certainly a strong current of nationalism in the IP MAN movies, it is important to remember that the films are equally anti-imperialist; both are set at a time when the Japanese and Europeans were in the process of colonizing China, which was accompanied by injustice and brutality.

    So your Michael Bay analogy isn’t quite apt; Bay’s patriotism doesn’t exist within a context of foreign occupation. Maybe a comparison to current Korean films, which often include critiques of Japanese and American cultural and military imperialism in the form of Korean chauvinism is more accurate. It doesn’t necessarily justify nationalism in movies, but at least in IP MAN it could be argued that a strategy of resistance is being employed, not a strategy of oppression.

    But I agree with you that the IP MAN movies don’t wade into the arena with as much nuance or charm as the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA movies or FIST OF LEGEND.

  29. Jareth Cutestory, I don’t disagree with you. The Bay example may not be the best analogy. However, the nationalistic sub text of the IP MAN films are hard to ignore, and rather off putting considering how the Chinese government treats it’s citizen’s and control’s it’s media. It is as if the films are designed to distract you from the oppression under the current Chinese government, and remind you the real bad guys are the Europeans and Japanese.

  30. Good point, Charles. I mean, the Japanese government’s refusal to apologize for its war crimes in China and Korea is pretty bad – inexcusable, really – but I think you’re right to question the motives of the Chinese government. I can’t think of many Tibetans who would be cheering too loudly at IP MAN’s subtext. Liu Xiaobo’s probably not a fan either.

  31. Just recently watched Ip Man 2 so I could review it for it’s UK release, and I was struck by how similar the second half of the film is to the plot of Rocky IV. All that’s missing are the training montages.

  32. DirkD13 – Long Schlong Style

    Just watched my Blu-Ray of it and it freakin’ rocked, but it’s a shame that the Brit actors were terrible (and Australian I reckon by their dodgy accents) as everything else is top-notch. I loved the scene where Master Jin pays Hong’s bail money for him as a favour to Ip Man and doesn’t want it paid back, it made up for braking that vase in part 1.

  33. Have you guys heard they are making a third Ip Man film and Mike Tyson is going to be in it?!?!?! I am not sure what his role is going be, but I am pretty excited.

  34. According to the Hollywood Reporter he will be playing “a property developer who is also a street fighter.” The article calls it “a significant role” but doesn’t make it clear if he’s the main antagonist or not.

    Also of note: they say they’ve given up on finding a young actor to play Bruce Lee and are going to use cg instead!

    Also the movie will be in 3D, at least in China.

  35. The Original Paul

    April 3rd, 2015 at 11:23 am

    KILL ZONE is the best contemporary Hong Kong action movie I’ve seen in years. The only criticism I could level at it is the occasional overly melodramatic scoring choices, when this was a film that really deserved a more stark, pared-down, minimalist score. But hey, this is par for the course in Hong Kong action nowadays; even INFERNAL AFFAIRS was guilty of this a lot (and I freakin’ love INFERNAL AFFAIRS). Other than that, it’s fantastic. Don’t know what the heck you guys were watching, but I thought just about everything about it was great. Dayum, I didn’t think I’d be in the minority on that one.

    IP Man 2? Haven’t seen it yet. For some reason I thought this came out years ago, yet it seems to have just been released in cinemas? I’ll definitely consider checking it out if I get a chance.

    I liked the first IP MAN, but something about it didn’t quite click for me. I think that for the most part it’s brilliantly shot and choreographed. My main problem with it is that the abrupt two-part structure really doesn’t let some of the characters I liked shine as much as I wanted them to. It’s still really good, just not quite up there with the kind of Asian martial arts stuff that really “got” me – CROUCHING TIGER, KILL ZONE, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, ENTER THE DRAGON, YOUNG MASTER, etc. Otherwise I don’t have too much to say about it – I liked a lot of the characters, especially in the first part, and would’ve liked to have seen more of them (especially Yen’s wife).

  36. I am not sure how I feel about a CGI Bruce Lee? Done right it could be cool, but handled wrong it could ended up being a modern version of GAME OF DEATH.

    I am excited about the 3D, fingers crossed it gets a 3D theatrical release here in the states.

    I was thinking it would be funny considering Tyson’s recent comedic success if he didn’t do any fighting in the film and was only there for comedic relief. He could be the wacky foreign guy.

  37. Paul, have you seen Donnie’s new one KUNG FU JUNGLE? I haven’t seen it yet but I have heard it is good. The premise is pretty amazing Yen is after a serial who has been killing Kung fu masters.

  38. You know? A cgi Bruce lee as the star of a fake Bruce Lee vehicle would be wrong. But cgi Bruce lee as a supporting character in the Ip Man story because everyone’s been asking about Bruce Lee for two films? That’s kind of a clever solution. Now can Chinese cgi artists pull it off? They can’t call in Andy Serkis for this one.

  39. I am actually not against modern day CGI brucesploitation. With the aid of modern day technology we could be seeing stuff like BRUCE LEE VS GODZILLA. Unfortunately it would most likely be an Asylum production…

  40. For those who have yet to see it, I highly recommend GAME OF DEATH 2.More hokey exploitative fun and with well choreographed fights by Yuen Woo-ping. “Take them to the graveyard!”

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