Ip Man 2

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AKA: Legend of the Grandmaster, Legend of the Grand Master

Year of release: 2010

Genre: martial arts

Director: Wilson Yip

Action director: Sammo Hung

Producer: Raymond Wong

Writer: Edmond Wong

Cinematography: Poon Hang-Sang

Editing: Cheung Ka-Fai

Music: Kawai Kenji

Stars: Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Fan Siu-Wong, Sammo Hung, Amber Chia, Huang Xiao-Ming, To Yue-Hong, Jiang Dai-Yan, Sik Siu-Lung, Kent Cheng, Darren Shahlavi, Simon Yam, Charlie Mayer, Lam Hak-Ming, Lo Meng, Fung Hak-On

Rated IIB for violence

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Ip Man 2  Ip Man 2

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The first Ip Man movie was a relative rarity in today's world of Hong Kong films -- it was a locally-produced product that was a runaway success at the box office despite an ever-growing challenge from big-budget juggernauts launched from the hive of scum and villainy known as Hollywood.

So, in keeping with Hong Kong production houses' idiom of piggybacking on past triumphs, it was perhaps inevitable that a sequel would quickly find its' way into theaters and DVD players. Thankfully, Ip Man 2 is one of those elusive follow-ups that retains the same level of quality as its' predecessor.

For those of you not familiar with the first movie, Ip Man tells the story of the man who would become famous for being Bruce Lee's sifu (teacher) and popularizing the Wing Chun style of kung fu in modern-day Hong Kong. The first movie took a lot of liberties with the facts about Ip Man's life, and the second entry goes even further in that direction, culminating in a match between Ip Man and a western boxer, Mr. Twister (Darren Shahlavi), that would fit right in on a WWE pay-per-view event.

While Ip Man 2 might not be at all historically accurate, it provides wonderful popcorn entertainment that is rousing and pulse-pounding as many over-rated $200 million US "epics" like Avatar (aka Dances with Big Blue Aliens). This is a slickly-produced movie; the locations and sets look tremendous, and the camerawork and editing are top-notch. But you can still tell that the core effort here was placed into portraying emotion through fight sequences, and, in that respect, Ip Man 2 is a rousing winning effort.

Outside of the fights, Ip Man 2 does stumble a bit. Due to the success of the first movie, Donnie Yen (who plays Ip Man) has been enjoying a resurgence in his career, but, despite his formidable skills in the martial arts department, it's still kind of tough to take him seriously as an actor. There are some parts, such as when Ip Man finds his old friend Chow Ching-Chuen (Simon Yam) homeless, where Yen's crocodile tears veer into soap opera territory.

There are some glimmers that Donnie is capable of creating meaningful characterization, as demonstrated by the scene where Ip Man learns that his best student, Wong Leung (Huang Xiao-Ming), has been beaten up. Donnie's reaction is done with a touch of subtlety that makes the whole scene play extremely well, generating true emotion without having to resort to the melodramatics that are still far too omnipresent in Hong Kong and Chinese productions.

Sadly, those sorts of over-acting and cheesiness do make their way into the finale. While I won't go as far as some other reviewers have gone and throw the "racist" label around, the whole "gweilo" (or "foreign devil") bit is as overused in Hong Kong/Chinese movies as the "inscrutable Oriental" is in western films, and is increasingly seen (at least through these eyes) to be a cheap crutch to try and draw the audience in.

While those sort of methods and sentiments probably went a long way into making this into a huge hit with local audiences, one would think and hope that Chinese film-makers (as with their western counterparts) could eventually learn to lose those tired tropes while still retaining the core vitality that have intrigued viewers from all over the world for decades.

RATING: 8