Ip Man 2
Ip Man 2 (2010)
Directed by Wilson Yip
[this review brought to you by guest writer Camiele White who was a former apprentice of Beatrix Kiddo]
After 20 years of consciously watching film (the first five don’t count, for obvious reasons), my favourite films seem to always be Martial Arts related. When my brother came to me with a film he dubbed “the greatest action film of all time”, I had my doubts, particularly because I hadn’t seen a large variety of action films that were both adrenaline pumping and artistic works of brilliance. However, my brother has yet to steer me wrong, so I gave it a chance. It was the moment I welcomed Ip Man into my life.
After having seen the first film, I was thirsty, no RAVENOUS for more! Without becoming overcome with emotion, I’ll simply say Ip Man 2 didn’t fail to deliver. It was one of those films that you see once in your life, once in an existential dilemma about the worth of your own life --yeah, it was that deep for me.
Barring my overdramatic infatuation with the film, it actually opened my eyes to a universal truth --Americans don’t know shit! I consider myself incredibly open-minded. That being said, there’s so much about Asian cinema that I’m missing that it’s almost embarrassing. That point was driven home with a stake the size of Montreal when I had the pleasure of experiencing the Ip Man series for the first time.
Ip Man tells the story of the legendary Yip Man, known commonly as Ip Man, one of the most venerated masters of Chinese Martial Arts and the undisputed master of Wing Chun. Most renowned for becoming the teacher of, arguably, the greatest Chinese martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee, Ip Man was a quiet nobleman who had a keen and organic understanding of the movement of the human body. The first film shows his struggle to effectively carry an entire nation on his shoulders during the second Sino-Japanese War. As with most films based on historical fact, the directors take a few liberties with the facts in order to heighten the dramatic effect; however, those moments are few and far between. What I experienced was nothing short of miraculous.
Ip Man 2 picks up where its predecessor left of: after winning a battle against Miura (portrayed by Ikeuchi Hiroyuki), a ruthless Japanese general and respectable martial artist in his own right, Ip Man is shot by a shady lieutenant with a sizeable chip on his shoulders who spits on the self-respect and tradition of the Chinese folk (let’s just say the man had one hell of a Napoleon Complex). After his shooting, the Chinese people, who are barricaded behind wooden spiked fences, force their way through and help Ip Man and his family escape their home of Foshan.
In the opening scene, we see Ip Man, portrayed by the highly underrated (and the second most incredible Chinese actor I’ve ever seen), Donnie Yen, attempting to find a place to open his Martial Arts school. He finds an abandoned roof annexed to a plant nursery, used solely to hang laundry. As is the case in many traditional Martial Arts films, a cocky young challenger waltzes through the doors to flex his muscle and see what all the fuss is about this Ip Man. Boy, did he learn a thing or twelve. Without blinking an eye, Master Ip devours this man with all the grace and poise of an elegant dancer. Thus setting the pace for the rest of the film.
On top of all the craziness surrounding the territorial nature of Martial Arts, Master Ip’s wife, Cheung Wing-sing (played by the ever-gorgeous Lynn Hung) is pregnant with another child and trying her best to save as much money as possible as her husband waits for students. Then when the British Invasion hits the Chinese shores, all hell breaks loose.
As tends to be the trend, the Brits have an itching for some Imperialism and decide to spread their European power to China. With a snarky (and poorly acted) British event promoter exploiting the beauty of Chinese Martial Arts to make some quick cash, the film alludes early on to an imminent clash between a British boxer and Master Ip. The fight is, of course, set up with an early casualty of nationalism --Master Hung, a renowned teacher of Hung Gar. He’s killed by the British boxing star, Taylor “The Twister” Milos, when Master Hung becomes outraged with his blatant insults of Chinese culture and challenges him in the ring.
Vengeance and national honour is on the line as Master Ip prepares to fight Twister and obliterate the misconception of most of the Western world of the 50s that Chinese culture is a commodity in place to entertain the masses.
As the plot twists and escalates in overt social commentary, two aspects that always remain effortless are the dramatic poise and natural beauty of the surroundings. The film is a testament to the grace inherent in true Martial Arts. It’s a film that’s completely full of pride and dignity. As with the other films that fill the top spots of my all time favourites, Ip Man and Ip Man 2 are true cinematic marvels that have enough action to keep one riveted, but is never crass or over the top, simply dramatic and sophisticated, portraying true life at its most intense.
Check out the trailer below.