Wilson Yip continues the story of legendary Wing Chun master Ip Man in the second instalment of the martial arts franchise and Donnie Yen reprises his role as the titular character.
Ip Man was the first martial arts master to teach Wing Chun in Hong Kong, and was well known for teaching Hollywood legend Bruce Lee. The second film brings us much closer to the character through his family struggle to survive in a post-war world with his wife, young child and their unborn baby.
We see Ip Man fight in what could easily be his most dangerous battle yet; with a foul mouthed British boxer determined to undermine ‘Chinese boxing’ and prove that the British are better than the Chinese. Punching Ip Man‘s fellow martial arts master Master Hung (Sammo Hung) to death Ip Man takes on the challenge. Whether or not he wins is for you to find out!
It wouldn’t be a surprise to find that people had an issue with the representation of the British in the film, however it actually serves to make the struggle of the Chinese people more poignant, and in turn the characters more endearing. The British are stereotypical, and it’s difficult to tell if they’re bad at acting or if they’ve been deliberately asked to exaggerate the British accent and talk loudly as if they’re constantly announcing something. They’re horrible, violent, racist pigs and although for some this might be offensive, it’s obvious that it was yet another genuine struggle for Chinese people in those times. Ip Man‘s gentle, caring nature contrasts with the brash, violent Brits to give him the moral high ground and make us root for him once again.
As can be expected from a Donnie Yen film, Ip Man 2 showcases some brilliant martial arts action, when Ip Man has to take on challenges in order to be allowed to teach, the table-top fight is brilliantly choreographed. The performances are excellent once again, and the brief encounter with the very young and very cocky Bruce Lee at the end adds a little humour; Ip Man was less than impressed by him to begin with, and this almost mocking attitude towards him in the films (he appears at the end of Ip Man: The Final Fight too) shows Ip Man‘s distaste towards his decision to exploit martial arts in Hollywood for money.
Ip Man 2 is a great martial arts masterpiece and its just as good as the first. It’s unusual for a sequel to match up to its forerunner but Ip Man 2 manages it.