Ip Man 2 (2010)

Directed by
Reviewed by Simon 12/3/2010
Reviewed by Simon on 2010-12-03

The sequel to 2008's excellent and popular Ip Man probably has a little more basis in actual history, though I suspect it's still mostly fiction. Unfortunately it's also inferior to the original in pretty much every aspect.

The main weakness is the script, which is a massive festival of cheese and cliche with virtually no coherent character development. The HK Chinese are shown to be mostly scum, but then we're introduced to the British and realise that the Chinese are really noble, heroic, loyal etc after all... but then anybody would look that way next to the snarling, hateful, violent racism of the gwei lo. The narrative is basically ROCKY (some mix of all of them) with some confused messages about, err, well I'm not really sure except for a general sense that foreigners are bad. Mrs Ip Man's pregnancy is a bit odd, in that it has no bearing on the plot at all - the anticipated cliched exploitation of it never materialises, indeed is barely even mentioned. As with the entire Simon Yam subplot, not being there would have made no difference at all.

Donnie & Sammo both carry themselves well, indeed this is Sammo's finest performance for a while (Donnie is basically stoic and opaque) but it's a mixed bag from some of the other actors - especially the gwei lo. It always seems to be a problem when a director is working with cast members who aren't speaking his native language (though unless the language they're speaking is yours, you probably won't notice it). Sometimes they're OK, but in some scenes the delivery is completely unnatural.

The action is another mixed bag... whilst Donnie's demonstration of Wing Chun is mostly excellent, the quality of the fights depends very much on his opponents. Whilst it's great to see Fung Hak-On and Sammo fighting again, it's hard to avoid the fact that they are old men now, and their fights rely too much on wirework that looks very unconvincing next to Donnie's attempts to portray authentic Wing Chun. The best fight is probably the group fight at the fish market, which focusses on the choreography and environmental interaction. The final fight with the boxer is just OK - the two styles don't really go well together.

Production values are excellent, at least, and the film looks great throughout - the sets and locations are very evocative of the time period. The music is rather annoying though - I don't know what the fixation is with getting Japanese composers involved with historical epic type Chinese films lately, but it rarely works. Kenji Kawai has done some great anime soundtracks, but I haven't enjoyed any of his HK/Chinese scores. Give some local talent a chance again, please, producers!

It might seem like I've done nothing but pick fault, so the conclusion that IP MAN 2 is not a bad film might come as a surprise. It's just not an especially good film, and suffers especially when compared to its excellent predecessor.


Action Director

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