Ip Man 2: Legend Of The Grandmaster
by Del Harvey
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I am a big Donnie Yen fan. You’ve probably seen him, you just don’t know it. He’s one of China and Hong Kong’s biggest stars and a legendary martial arts actor and fight choreographer. Here in the States you may have recognized him in Blade II, Hero, Shanghai Knights, or last year’s Ip Man. If you did, then you know his fighting skills are lightning-fast and his acting ability razor sharp.
As Ip Man, Yen portrays the grandmaster of Wing Chun, a style of Chinese martial arts. Ip Man gained popularity when he defeated a British boxing champ, attracting the attention of many young Chinese and Hong Kong men suddenly drawn to the ancient fighting art, including the supremely talented Bruce Lee. Ip Man was Lee’s sifu, which translates into mentor or teacher. Lee attributed much of his learning in the arts to Ip Man’s fierce dedication to the art and his steady hand as a teacher.
The first film focused on events in Ip’s life that supposedly took place in the city of Foshan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. That film featured fight choreography by Yen and Chinese superstar Sammo Hung and co-starred great Hong Kong actor Simon Yam.
Ip Man 2 picks up where the first film left off, with Ip Man having beaten Japanese imperialist general Miura, a master of karate. Ip Man and his family have moved to Hong Kong in the early 1950s after their escape from Foshan. There, Ip desires to open a school, but he has difficulty attracting students due to his lacking a local reputation. One day, a young man named Wong Leung appears and promptly challenges Ip to a fight, but is easily defeated. Wong leaves humiliated, only to return with some friends to gang up on Ip, who beats them as well. Stunned and impressed, Wong and his friends become Ip’s first students, eventually bringing more disciples to help the school thrive.
But Ip Man’s difficulties are just beginning. Wong is later caught passing promotion leaflets for the school by some Hung Ga students. One of them challenges Wong to a fight and loses, but his friends take Wong hostage in revenge and demand a ransom from Ip. Ip goes to the local wet market as directed, but the meeting ends in a confrontation with a growing mob of Hung Ga students. Ip and Wong fight their way outside to meet Jin Shanzhao — the martial artist and former bandit in the first film — who comes to their rescue with his own gang.
The students’ master, Hung Chun-nam, arrives to break up the fight. Ip introduces himself, and Hung informs him that before setting up a school, he needs to attend a special fighting ceremony to test his skill. Ip, Wong and Jin are subsequently arrested by Officer Fatso for disturbing the peace but are later released on bail. Hung and Fatso are then shown to be acting as reluctant collectors for the martial arts schools (including Hung’s) as part of a protection racket headed by Superintendent Wallace, a corrupt officer in the Hong Kong police.
Eventually the British police leader brings a popular British boxer over to challenge the locals to fight, intending to show British superiority over the “yellow dogs.” The last challenger is Ip Man, who must stand up for his own dignity as well as be representative for his nation.
Featuring some of the most intense and stunning martial arts action you will ever see, Ip Man 2 was directed by Wilson Yip, who also directed the first film. Sammo Hung co-stars as well as co-choreographing the fight sequences, and Simon Yam reprises his role although in a much smaller part.
Ip Man 2 releases on January 28, 2011 from Well Go and Variance Films. It is presented in its original Cantonese version with English subtitles.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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