Ip Man 2 葉問２
Period martial arts drama
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 108 mins
Directed by Wilson Yip (葉偉信)
By Derek Elley
Thu, 27 May 2010, 11:26 AM (HKT)
Beautifully crafted, absorbing sequel to the terrific first film - and this time with a top-form Sammo Hung as well. Deliberate retro style may limit it more to ancillary outside Asia.
Hong Kong, 1950. After escaping from Foshan, China, following his humiliation of the Japanese during the war, penniless wing chun master Ip Man, with his pregnant wife Cheung Wing-sing (Lynn Xiong) and young son (Li Chak), has opened a rudimentary martial arts school with the help of his friend, newspaper editor Leung Kan (Pierre Ngo). However, the local economy is poor and his new pupils, led by restless Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming), cannot afford to pay much. When Leung loses a street fight against Cheng Wai-kei (To Yue-hong), a pupil from the hung chun school, Ip ends up apologising to the school's veteran master, Hung Chun-nam (Sammo Hung), who tells Ip he has to prove himself in combat to be allowed to establish his own school. Meanwhile, racist Royal H.K. Police superintendent Wallace (Charlie Mayer), twisting the arm of Chinese cop Fatso (Kent Cheng), organises a western vs eastern boxing tournament, supposedly to placate anti-British feeling in the colony but actually to further humiliate the Chinese and their martial arts.
It was almost too much to hope that the sequel would measure up to the 2008 original, which gave Donnie YEN 甄子丹 the role of his career. But with the same team back, apart from a change of d.p., Ip Man 2 葉問２ (2010) is actually even better. Director Wilson YIP 葉偉信 and scriptwriter Edmond WONG 黃子桓 still consciously evoke classic martial arts films of the '60s and early '70s, with a rival-schools story, plenty of stoic Chinese nationalism and overdrawn racist villains (here British instead of Japanese), and character expressed via cleanly filmed fights, superbly choreographed in purist style by Sammo HUNG 洪金寶. But relieved of the burden of having to introduce their hero and detail the Sino-Japanese War background, they've also finessed a better flowing narrative. The icing on the cake is POON Hang-sang 潘恆生's widescreen cinematography, much smoother and more subtly textured than the less experienced O Sing-pui 柯星沛's for the first film. While seemingly simple, Poon's camera extracts the most from Kenneth MAK 麥國強's period production design and LEE Pik-kwan 利碧君's costumes, both of which uncannily recall Hong Kong studio productions from 40 or so years ago.
Yen is once again superb in the title role, mixing an ascetic calm and righteousness with impressively contained fighting skills, and yields no screen space even to Hung, who stirs some wry comedy into his arrogant but secretly sickly rival master with a family as big as his waistline. Though Yen and Hung start out as rivals, you just know they're going to end up teaming vs. the evil British cop and his imported champion boxer, and that Chinese ethics and martial arts are going to triumph. But the journey to that point is still utterly engrossing, with one after another classic fight sequence (in Kwun Chung fish market; on a wobbly table; twice in a boxing ring) marking the way.
The only blemishes are Simon YAM 任達華's reprise of his original role, but this time as a brain-damaged tramp, and the under-use of Louis FAN 樊少皇's character Jin Shanzhao, one of the liveliest in the first film. Yam, in fact, should have been cut out entirely, as his few scenes simply hold up the story for no dividends. As Ip's newly-pregnant wife, Mainland actress Lynn XIONG 熊黛林 is little more than window-dressing in this one, but other roles are well cast, with Mainland poster boy HUANG Xiaoming 黃曉明 looking like he was directly transported from a '70s Golden Harvest movie as Ip's over-eager student.
With Ip Man-ia at full swing — Herman YAU 邱禮濤's prequel, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man 葉問前傳 (2010) due in June, and WONG Kar-wai 王家衛's The Grandmaster 一代宗師 later this year — there will be huge pressure on Yen, Yip and Wong to maintain this level of quality in the inevitable Ip Man 3, detailing the Bruce LEE 李小龍 years.
ContactSales: Mandarin Films, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: Hong Kong/China, 29 Apr. 2010.
Presented by Mandarin Films (HK), Henan Film & TV Production Group (CN), Beijing Shengshi Huarui Film Investment & Management (CN), Desen International Media (Beijing) (CN), in association with Foshan Media Group, Donlord & Skykee Film Investment, Teng Yuan Film & TV Media. Produced by Mandarin Films (HK). Producers: Raymond Wong, Li Xin, Ann An.
Script: Edmond Wong. Photography: Poon Hang-sang. Editing: Cheung Ka-fai. Music: Kawai Kenji. Production design: Kenneth Mak. Costume design: Akis Lee. Sound: Wang Jie, Mok Jiajia. Action: Sammo Hung. Wing Chun consulting: Ip Chun. Visual effects: Henri Wong.
Cast: Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Sammo Hung (Master Hung Chun-nam), Huang Xiaoming (Wong Leung), Lynn Xiong (Cheung Wing-sing, Ip's wife), Kent Cheng (Fei Bo/Fatso, the policeman), Pierre Ngo (Leung Kan, the editor), Simon Yam (Chow Ching-chuen), Calvin Cheng (Chow Kong-yiu, Chow's son), Louis Fan (Jin Shanzhao), Dennis To (Cheng Wai-kei, Hung's senior pupil), Darren Shahlavi (Taylor Miller - "Twister"), Shi Xiaolong (Tsui), Li Chak (Ip Chun, Ip's son), Jiang Daiyan (Young Bruce Lee), Lo Meng (Master Law), Fung Hark-on (Master Cheng), Lam Hark-ming (Master Lam), Charlie Mayer (Superintendent Wallace), Li Huiying (Sam Gu), Ma Zengmeng (Landlady), Lu Meifang (Hung's wife), Tian Rui (Jin's wife), Stefan Morawietz (Twister's coach).