Ip Man is still the only martial arts film I’ve ever given a perfect score. Similar films usually throw in those silly bits of humor that come off as lame rather than actually being humorous. It probably hits its target overseas audience well, but the difference in culture probably has something to do with how American audiences don’t appreciate those bits as much. Either that or the storyline is usually fairly simple or borderline atrocious while the fighting scenes are spectacular. If you’re a fan of martial arts films, you see these types of films for the action scenes. A good storyline and exceptional acting are usually just a bonus. Ip Man broke those boundaries. It had an intriguing storyline and a fantastic cast to compliment its jaw dropping action sequences. The only flaws the film seemed to have was that it eventually had to end and left the audience wanting more especially the way the film ended. The desire for a sequel was extremely high and, for the most part, the sequel doesn’t disappoint.
Donnie Yen returns as Ip Man and after fleeing his hometown of Foshan, China, has finally arrived in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, Hong Kong is currently under the rule of the British and most have to resort to paying them off in order to keep their businesses. Ip Man opens his martial arts school to teach Wing Chun and eventually gets a handful of pupils after a rocky start. His pupils cross paths with the pupils of Hung Chun-nam (Sammo Hung) where Hung claims that Ip Man doesn’t have the right to call himself a martial arts master or teach it until he proves himself. That seems to be the least of Ip Man’s problems though as a western boxer known as The Twister (Darren Shahlavi) comes to Hong Kong to prove that the British are more superior than the Chinese in every way. After proving this point in a horrifically violent way, Ip Man takes it upon himself to fight Twister and bring honor back to the Chinese.
I had originally thought that Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster wasn’t able to capture the same amount of heart that the original film had, but I no longer believe that to be true; Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster still has all the heart and emotion that the first film did. Everything from Ip Man realizing his friend Quan (Simon Yam) is brain damaged because of him to Ip Man trying to restore honor to the east by taking on a western boxer, the emotion is still there. It just isn’t as strong or as powerful as it was in the first film. The same atmosphere is established quite easily, but the struggle to show the world that Wing Chun is a respectable martial art seems to take a backseat to other plot points that aren’t necessarily less important but seem to take away from what made the first film so special.
The sequel is still very solid and extremely entertaining. Any scene in the film featuring Sammo Hung is gold. His adamancy for the Chinese culture is half of his character’s charm. The other half is split between him trying to provide for such a large family and the amazing action sequences he’s a part of. The sole reason to see this film is for the Ip Man/Master Hung match that takes place on a table top. If you’ve seen Kill Zone, you know how fantastic a battle between these two can be. However, the Yen/Hung match in Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster tops the one in Kill Zone though. Their encounter will be the thing fans will remember and be talking about the most after walking out of the theater and for good reason.
Just a few sidenotes and nitpicks, the sound effects seemed to be off at times. The main occurrence being when Ip Man goes to meet Master Hung at his dojo after their pupils get into it for the second time. After Hung tells his pupils to leave, the sounds of their footsteps just didn’t feel genuine and seemed like the sound was too loud or excessive or something. The film also features the fastest baby delivery ever in recent film memory. The woman goes into labor one scene and two scenes later, she’s holding a baby. No mess and no 27 hours of labor? Why have an old fashioned pregnancy when you can just DVR it and fast forward through it later? Lastly, the film leaves you wanting even more than its predecessor did. Mostly due to the Bruce Lee tease featured at the end of the film.
Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster doesn’t sweep you off your feet and smack you in the face quite as hard as its predecessor, but it’s still very worthy of carrying the “Ip Man” name and is a joy to watch. If you enjoyed the hard-hitting action of the original film, then you’ll have no problem being entertained by this sequel.