Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...almost as masterful as the original..."

During the 1950s, Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) moves his family to Hong Kong to open a martial arts school, but finds trouble in the local martial arts club and a vicious Western boxer.
Ip Man 2 picks up where the last film left off. Don't fret, though, this film begins with a short montage of the last film's major events, and offers a small bridge to this installment. Anyway, the first half of the film focuses on Ip Man's struggles to support his family and start a legitimate martial arts school. The latter half of the film introduces a vicious Western boxer, who goes by the nick name “Twister”. Twister challenges the Chinese martial artists and eventually finds himself challenged by the very best: Ip Man. The climax is fantastic, as is much of the fighting, and I loved the ending; I hope we see a Bruce Lee and Ip Man film next.

The film works very well as an informative biopic without sacrificing a shred of entertainment. And, I absolutely love that about this film, as well as the original Ip Man. The film gives us plenty of information about Ip Man's life, and an incredible barrage of fight sequences. The fight sequences are extraordinary. Donnie Yen delivers the fast and ferocious action of Wing Chun, and the film also blends and clashes several other styles of fighting; I was especially impressed by the Wing Chun vs. Western boxing. The story is occasionally melodramatic and contrived, though. However, I honestly didn't mind as much as I usually do, particularly because it wasn't overwhelming and also because it added to martial arts charm film.

I think the biggest issue for the film is its antagonist. In the original film, Japanese general Miura is vicious yet noble -- he's not completely demonized, it's somewhat subtle -- the same can't be said for his villainous sidekick, but that's a minor role. Comparably, Ip Man 2 portrays the Westerners as evil and as devils. Twister's personality and dialogue, as well as other Westerners in the film, is cartoonish -- it's just so blatant, it treats Twister as a super-villain. I wasn't particularly offended, but it was so blatant, that it kind of threw me off.

Donnie Yen reprises his role as Grandmaster Ip Man, and he's excellent in the role; he has the perfect charisma to play a wise grandmaster. The supporting cast is great. In fact, I was surprised at the impressive performances from most of the English-speaking cast -- usually, English-speaking actors in Asian films are the weaker link. The cinematography is great; the setting is very lively and immersive, it really brought me into this world. The camerawork is great, too, it keeps up with the ferocious action without becoming too shaky or nauseating. On that point, the fight choreography is excellent. Director Wilson Yip delivers a fast paced, informative, and exciting martial arts film; it does lose a point for its cartoonish portrayal of the antagonist, but it's almost as masterful as the original, otherwise.

Overall, Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster is a fantastic martial arts action movie. Fans of Ip Man will be glad to learn a little more about Ip Man's life, and even gladder to find several breathtaking action sequences. Some of the story issues didn't bother me, like the plot contrivances, but the cartoonish villain did; the fact that I call him a villain instead of antagonist is proof enough -- it's cartoonish, but forgivable. If you're a fan of fast martial arts action films like Ip Man or The Raid, don't miss this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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