Review: IP MAN 2 葉問2 (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Review: IP MAN 2 葉問2 (2010)

Review: IP MAN 2 葉問2 (2010)

It's a hugely-anticipated Hong Kong movie blockbuster of the year, and expectation is running high for IP MAN 2. But as far as most typical sequel nowadays goes, the movie offers more of the same we have seen previously in the first one. Instead of the first movie's WWII setting and the Japanese occupation of China, we get a sequel's treatment set in the British colony of 1950s Hong Kong.

REVIEW: During the first half of the movie, IP MAN 2 gets off to a promising start as the story begins with Ip Man (Donnie Yen), his heavily-pregnant wife (Lynn Xiong) and his young son moves to Hong Kong in hope to start a new life. Despite living in poverty, they remain optimistic and support each other no matter the consequences. In the meantime, Ip is trying to establish his own Wing Chun martial arts school but struggling to bring in any students. Day after day has passed, until the arrogant but naive Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) appears. At first, Leung never heard of Wing Chun before and even mocks Ip's fighting style. That is not until Ip teaches him a few lesson and defeats him easily. Leung isn't pleased and calls off his buddies to take him down, only to embarrass themselves in the end. But Leung and his buddies' interest for Wing Chun has finally impressed them and begs Ip to take them as students. So far so good, until other martial arts schools, particularly Master Hung Chun Nam (Sammo Hung) of Hung Ga Kuen is not pleased with Ip simply set up shop on their turf without permission. It gets worse when Leung gets into a fight with one of Hung's cocky students (To Yu-Hong) and is subsequently held for ransom. Ip has no choice but to save Leung, even though he brings no money for ransom.

During this particularly memorable scene, Ip encounters a score of Hung's machete-wielding students in the abandoned fish market. The scene is no doubt a spectacular display of graceful fighting sequence. The movie grows more entertaining when Ip is invited to meet most of the martial arts master in a one-on-one duel atop a flimsy table. The catch is that if Ip survives the duel without falling off the table, he is granted permission to continue running his school. After defeating two martial-arts masters easily, Hung finally stands up. It is this movie's centrepiece where Ip and Hung's energetic showdown atop the table. Watching them fighting against each other with such speed, grace and power are a sight to behold -- it's nevertheless a true-to-form martial arts scene that is also ranked as one of the best action set pieces ever choreographed.

Up until this point, IP MAN 2 is a spectacular entertainment. If only the rest of the movie manage to sustain further. Once the second half kicks off with East vs. West match-up, it's a same old familiar route we have seen many times before (e.g. FEARLESS and TRUE LEGEND). The final showdown against a muscular English boxer named Twister (Darren Shahlavi), as expected, is less fascinating than what has shown earlier. Other than the fact it's good to see Ip has finally met his worthy opponent that results with more blood, bruise and sweat unlike the one he used to encounter before in the first movie, it's really nothing to shout about.

Perhaps the biggest problem lies in Edmond Wong's script that goes too far for its nationalistic sentiment. In the meantime, Wilson Yip's direction is pedestrian at best, though there is time he delivers some worthy dramatic scenarios. At least he remains adept when comes to shooting action scenes, favouring lots of close-ups to create a realistic intensity for every blow all the more authentic. But for all the graceful action set piece Sammo Hung has successfully choreographed, it's quite a surprise that the glaring wire work sometimes makes the fight scene looks a bit over-the-top. Other technical fronts, including Poon Hang-Sang rich cinematography and Kenneth Mak's authentic, if stagy set design, deserve some credits for re-creating the old Hong Kong of the past while evoking the heyday of yesteryear's martial arts genre.

As for the cast, Donnie Yen looks at ease in his iconic Ip Man role, though it's more of the same character we have previously seen before. Sammo Hung, on the other hand, brings dignity to the role as the never-say-die Master Hung while it's good to see the mostly neglected Lynn Xiong in a more pivotal role as Ip's heavily pregnant wife. Cameo appearances by the likes of Simon Yam and Fan Siu-Wong feel wasted, while Kent Cheng's appearance as the law enforcer-cum-translator between the Chinese and the English is more of a carbon copy of the better-acted Lam Ka-Tung in the first movie. Rising China star Huang Xiaoming is an interesting choice to play Wong Leung. He's definitely charismatic enough to pull off such a cocky role, and he is especially convincing to hold his own during the fight sequences.

IP MAN 2 is hardly an improvement over the original, but at least it's as good as the predecessor.

Wilson Yip's highly-anticipated IP MAN 2 is blessed with an entertaining first half, but this sequel nosedives once the familiar East vs. West storyline took over the rest.

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