As with the previous film, Ip Man 2 is all about the theme of nationalism and pride in Chinese martial arts. The secondary goal would be to further emphasize Ip Man the person as an important figure to both Chinese and martial arts history. There’s even a line of dialogue ranking his name alongside another legendary martial arts icon, Wong Fei-hung. The heavy-handed nationalism also makes for some serious melodrama. By the end, when everything (ranging from the pride of the nation to a traumatized man’s memories) hinges on the outcome of a duel, it tends to get pretty cheesy.
Speaking of which, I need to talk about the villains in this movie. First, we get Master Hung. He’s sort of the local collector for the British, though he’s by no means a sinister character. In fact, he turns out to be complex and developed. For years he’s been forced to swallow his pride and serve the invaders out of necessity. His school has too many members and he sees his position as a sacrifice necessary in order to preserve his, and the other masters’, way of life. His true honor is revealed when the vicious British boxing champ “Twister” (aptly named after a terrible movie) insults Chinese martial arts in general. It’s a serious mistake to insult martial arts in a martial arts film, and here it’s tantamount to burning the flag and defecating on the ashes. The British characters are the true villains of the movie and man are they evil. I’ve always found the acting and delivery from non Chinese speaking actors in martial arts films to be stilted and awkward, but never before have I seen it so over-the-top. Everything they say and do is done with such dramatically sinister undertones; they might as well be smoking cigars and twirling their mustaches. Twister (Darren Shahlavi) and his sadistic boss Wallace (Charles Mayer) scream and taunt all their lines as if they’re trying to act over the subtitles. It’s both baffling and hilarious to watch and I can’t decide if it’s the worst acting I’ve ever seen in a martial arts film or the best. Either way it certainly gets your attention.
|Ip Man vs. Twister|
Ip Man 2 is a fantastic sequel and another great introduction to a real life martial artist. It has amazing fight choreography and doesn’t feel like a simple re-hash of the first film. With Donnie Yen’s depiction, I think it’s safe to include Ip Man among the greatest of historical martial arts characters.