Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 291 - Ip Man 2

Ip Man 2 (2010) directed by Wilson Yip

Following the events of Ip Man, Ip Man and his family have moved to Hong Kong where he hopes to start a new martial arts school to teach his Wing Chun style. He is opposed by the local syndicate who runs the martial arts racket. In order to get a license to instruct, Ip Man must face an open challenge against the other masters in a fight. This fight is held on top of a table surrounded by painful looking chairs turned upside with the legs up; first person to fall off loses. He beats a couple of masters rather easily and stalemates with the leader of the group, Master Hung, in a frenzied battle of furious kicks and punches. Ip Man earns his right to teach with the caveat that he pays the monthly dues. Ip Man refuses believing that the dues are only meant to line Master Hung's pockets, but he doesn't realize the immense pressure Hung faces from the British occupiers. The two masters have a lot in common as it turns out, namely their Chinese pride and sense of honor. This is a familiar theme for those who watched the first film, the dignity of the Chinese and the arrogance and oppression of the foreign occupiers. They are basically anti-imperialist propaganda films. The main conflict of this film occurs when a Chinese martial arts vs. Western boxing exhibition takes place in the ultimate East vs. West, good vs. evil showdown. The villain is a British boxing champion named Twister who is so over the top that he is basically a cartoon character. Am I really ruining anything when I say Ip Man and Twister fight in the grand finale and Chinese honor prevails?

Part of what made the first Ip Man so great was its epic scope and storytelling. Ip Man 2's story is much thinner and focuses much of its energy on its pandering sentimentality and also quite blatantly recycles much of the same plot points and themes from the original. That isn't to say I didn't fall for it because it is pretty darn entertaining, but I couldn't help but notice how scripted it all felt. I also felt like the fighting sequences in the first were much better and that the final fight in this one unbelievable for a couple reasons. One, there is no way a boxer could ever compete against a world class martial artist. This is why pure boxers struggle so much in MMA. I understand that they have to make the fight look good but how awesome would it be if Ip Man just kicked the crap out of him without even being touched? And while we're at it, why is Twister using boxing gloves while Ip Man uses his bare hands, elbows, knees and feet? Why is Ip Man even allowed to kick in the first place? That is a huge disadvantage to Twister. I suppose you don't try to question the logic of such scenes, just appreciate the athletic ballet of fists and the scripted drama, like the rest of the film.

Grade: B-

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