Ip Man 2 (2010) is the continuation of the story begun in Ip Man as Ip Man (Donnie Yen) was forced from his opulent home and into poverty at the end of that film. As Ip Man strives to assert himself, his skill, and his school in a new setting, a film storyline familiar to many Americans with Cold War undertones establishes itself. That film is Stallone’s Rocky 4 from 1985. As Ip Man 2 begins focusing more and more on its pivotal final showdown, this parallel becomes more and more obvious.
The main protagonist ushering-in-moment and a Apollo Creed / Ivan Drago-like fight are even present in the film between a patriotic Chinese Wushu practitioner and an arrogant British boxer. Ip Man 2 offers slight variations on these themes with pupils, heritage, and honor as their new ingredients.
Instead USA vs. USSR, the viewer is given East vs. West in Ip Man 2. Taylor “Twister” Milos (Darren Shahlavi) – the Ivan Darko of this film – is every bit the empty vessel of his former incarnation, an antagonistic Nero (Star Trek), a motivating plot point and nothing more.
Ip Man 2 deserved to be more original than retreading something so notable and so instantly recognizable as one of most visually exciting and stylistically predictive Rocky films.
Aspects of the film that could have been aggrandized by screenwriter Edmond Wong to overshadow “the Rocky influence” were Ip Man’s brain damaged friend Chow Ching-chuen (Simon Yam) and the presence of Bruce Lee (Jiang Daiyan), instead of a weak kid cameo at the end of the film and a victory bringing back an old friend’s memory.
What this film has that the previous film did not was a larger emotional component. Ip Man not only has his burgeoning family to deal with but people around him and the honor of his students, community, and country to eventually contend with and possibly bolster. Donnie Yen is given the opportunity to show a greater emotional range than in the first Ip Man film while Hung Chun-nam (Sammo Hung) brings even more to a moment that is the fall of one character while another soon realizes what he will have to do and what lays ahead on him: potentially the combative challenge of his life.
This martial arts film’s high points are Ip Man’s new pupil Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) – an overly confident student and willing supplicant to Ip Man – and the art of Wing Chun being practiced and taught on screen. There was a little too much wire-work used – more so than in the first film, not late 90’s bad though – but it wasn’t over done.
Wilson Yip’s Ip Man 2 is not as good as the original film but does an effective job of continuing that storyline. Its triteness – stemming from following part of the Rocky 4 storyline – is a major flaw but if the viewer has not seen Rocky 4, they may have no problem with this portion of the plot arc at all.